Linebacker Says Defense Must Improve

One of Auburn's most experienced players talks about AU's second major scrimmage in which the defense took a pounding from the offense.

Auburn, Ala.--Saturday's scrimmage was a tough one for the Auburn defense as the offense had 92 carries for 348 yards on the ground and another 264 yards through the air on 22 completions out of 53 attempts.

Those numbers were an obvious disappointment for a defense that had controlled much of the action during spring practice. Linebacker Travis Williams says that the experience was an eye-opening one for him as one of the leaders of the unit.

"It was very disappointing," Williams says. "Our hats are off to the offense for making a lot of improvement. They are getting the ball in the hands of the right people and they are breaking tackles. We have to go back to the drawing board, get our X's and O's right and give better effort.

"I think it was just one of those days," Williams adds. "They are improving, but I think out there today a lot of the young players were getting down on themselves about getting tired and not giving all the effort they could. We have to go out and come back to practice Wednesday and improve."

Some of the reason for Auburn's lack of production on defense could have come from injuries to several key players up front such as defensive ends Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld both missed the majority of the scrimmage. Langenfeld sat out with a sprained knee. Eddins had a flare-up with a burner in his neck that has bothered him from time-to-time.

Linebacker Travis Williams drags down Tre Smith on the corner of the defense. Williams finished with six tackles.

While the injuries were a definite factor, there was also the case of an offense playing particularly well and with a lot of focus. Clicking in the running game and with Jason Campbell spreading the ball around, Williams says the offense is one that teams will find hard to defend when the Tigers get a better feel for Coach Al Borges' system because it has been difficult for his unit this spring even though they see it in every practice.

"They are getting better every day," Williams says. "They are coming out with so many different plays. They're using the bunch set and they'll pass out of the bunch. They'll run strong. They have a lot of different formations and a lot of our guys' heads are spinning trying to defend them. When the smoke clears they are basically doing the same things. We just have to recognize what they are doing."

Williams says a continuing problem for the defense is third-down stops. Last season the Tigers allowed opponents to convert just 32 percent of third-down chances, but many came at inopportune times for the defense. That's something that Williams says his group must improve on this season if this team hopes to improve on last season's eight wins.

"I think it could be a case of just not focusing," Williams says. "When it is third down you have to be ready to get off the field. When it is third down we preach about getting off the field. That's what hurt us last year because we were on the field too long. Basically we have a lot of young guys, but we have to get off the field more."

Auburn has five practice days left before the end of spring training and Williams says that each and every day is important to the future of the defense. While the taste of Saturday's scrimmage will be left over in the mouths of the defensive players until they get back on the practice field Wednesday, Williams says that what happened in Jordan-Hare Stadium might be good for the defense in the long run.

"In a scrimmage like this you can find out what you've got and what you've got to work on," Williams says. "If you have to switch players around so be it, but in the long run I think it's a good thing. The coaches get a better feel of what they've got and we've got a lot of players injured, too. They get an idea of who's tough and who's not and who can run to the ball and who's not. When they are tired, who's going to lay it down? It's more mental than anything right now."

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