Chizik Says Defense Needs Improvement

Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik discusses the play of the defense in the season opener and in what areas the unit needs to improve.

Auburn, Ala.-–Despite rainy conditions associated with Tropical Depression Frances, the Auburn Tigers were able to practice outside on Tuesday and went through their second straight physical practice in preparation for the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Coach Gene Chizik said the team has responded well to tougher practices this week and he noted the coaches are going to keep pushing the players to be more physical.

"I definitely see it (being physical) as an issue," Chizik said. "We went goal line yesterday and that helps. We're trying to do all the things we can to get our football team physically ready.

"Half of being physical is believing that you can be and that you are. It's all about an attitude. When you're a defensive lineman you go out there and have to really think you're going to beat that guy's brains out in front of you. If you have any doubt in your mind you won't.

"We keep talking about it and we're trying to develop it in practice. Coach Tuberville is doing some things right now to try to give us some avenues to be physical. We did that yesterday and we tackled today. We're just going to keep working on it and working on it."

Although heavy rains fell in the Auburn area throughout the night on Monday and a constant steady rain fell on Tuesday, the Tigers weren't forced inside because of the artificial turf field outside. Practicing for just over two hours, Auburn worked on all phases of the game after a short tackling session to open practice. Having the all-weather field to work on makes it much better for the team as the Tigers get ready for a game in less than desirable weather as was the case on Tuesday.

Defensive tackle Pat Sims could be headed for a redshirt.

In Saturday's season opener, Auburn faced a team that tried to beat the Tigers using a finesse game, which was unsuccessful against the speed of Auburn's defense. Things will be quite different this weekend as Mississippi State will look to pound the ball right at Auburn. Chizik said it will be a big test for his young defense this early in the season and he's hoping for more pressure on the quarterback than his unit delivered in the opener.

"I was very proud of the guys for being able to produce a shutout, but you have to be realistic in where we're at," Chizik said. "It wasn't near the caliber team we're going to play, but it's always good to start that way. So many little things are apparent once you watch the film that we have to do a lot better job of.

"We got basically no pass rush even when we blitzed. We had pressure at times, until they caught on to what we were doing. We didn't get a whole lot of pressure after that. The positive things to come out were what you saw. I think we tried to be aggressive. I think we tried to run around and hit the ball.

"On the outside it looked like we played well in some instances and we came up with some plays, but there were a lot of little mistakes in those areas. We have to get so much better. We're so far off from where we need to be to be able to compete in this league."

While there were things he wasn't pleased with, Chizik said that he was happy with the defense on third downs. Holding the Indians to just 2-13, the Tigers played good when the pressure was on. He also said he was pleased with the short yardage defense the Tigers displayed.

With the lack of depth at cornerback, Chizik said that sophomore Montae Pitts will get some action early against the Bulldogs, but he isn't sure whether it will be Pitts or junior Kevin Hobbs will get the starting nod. In the opener Hobbs got the start with Pitts suspended and Chizik said that Pitts has practiced well this week and could take over the job.

"I don't know," Chizik said about the cornerback rotation. "We'll see as that goes. We'll see how he does. He's definitely going to be in the mix. We're not going to make a decision on this right this second.

"I thought Kevin played average. In the secondary right now I thought we played okay. Nothing really stood out. Going in the plan was to keep everything in front of you and rally up and tackle the ball. Don't let anything behind you. They tried to do that."

The injury bug has bitten the Tigers as true freshman defensive tackle Pat Sims suffered a high ankle sprain on Monday. He is likely to miss four to five weeks of action while rehabbing the problem and could be headed for a redshirt season. Guard Ben Grubbs practiced for the second day in a row after twisting an ankle on Saturday.

Auburn will practice both Wednesday and Thursday on the Plains before traveling to Starkville on Friday. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen on Jefferson Pilot Sports.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories