Currently ranked second in the country in points allowed, giving up just 6.5 per game, Auburn's defense has been the surprise of the season to his point and Saturday the Tigers showed some muscle by allowing just 169 yards of total offense to The Citadel Bulldogs. Herring says that continuing to work hard in practices leading up to games has been the key to the strong start and last week was no different for the defense.
"We came out every day in practice and worked hard and I really think we got better," Herring says. "We had a few misfits early on the run and it allowed a few big plays, but those are going to happen from time to time, but we have got to rally and bring it down. This week we are going to have to go back and correct those mistakes and play as close to perfection as we can because Tennessee is rolling right now. They have got a good team up in Knoxville and we feel like it is going to be a challenge going in there and I am just excited."
Sandwiched in between games against Top 10 LSU and Tennessee, The Citadel didn't inspire much enthusiasm from the fan base for Saturday's game and the team had the same problems getting fired up about the contest. Herring says he would be lying if he said the team wasn't looking a little past the Bulldogs, but that didn't mean the Tigers weren't prepared for what they saw on the field though.
"I think a few of the runs that broke early weren't anything we hadn't seen," Herring says. "We studied them on film and in practice just like any other team and it was just a few misfits up front. If 10 guys play run right and one person misfits it or doesn't do his responsibility it can be out the gate. It seemed like they hit it a few times, you know, found the soft spots and we are going to have to correct that going into Tennessee."
Just like two weeks ago when the defense had to get ready for two quarterbacks at LSU, this week's task is made tougher by the fact that Tennessee plays two quarterbacks each game. Unlike LSU's Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell, who are similar in style, UT's Erik Ainge and Brent Schaeffer are different in ability and throw with different hands. Herring says the Tigers are going to have to be prepared for pretty much anything on Saturday night.
"Both quarterbacks are very impressive, particularly the Ainge kid," Herring says. "He's got a really good arm and has great poise in the pocket. He throws a really nice ball. They have some big, physical receivers on the outside that we'll have to get physical with. Just like any game we have to stop the run first and not give up the deep ball in order to win.
"I don't know exactly what we're going to do when they have the faster kid in there," Herring says of Schaeffer. "He's faster and a lot more mobile. We'll look at them and break them down. We have to be ready to handle either one of them. If the athlete is in we'll have to respect his scrambling ability and adjust as the game goes on."
With the focus of the country on the SEC this weekend with ESPN's College Gameday in Knoxville for the Top 10 battle and another big matchup in Athens, Ga., with LSU facing the Georgia Bulldogs, Herring says that weekends like this are what it's all about as a football player in the SEC.
"This is why you come to Auburn, to play games like this," he says. "We had a big win a couple of weeks ago. We've put that one behind us. Any heavyweight matchup like this is the reason you come to a school like Auburn or Tennessee. You love to play in a game like this."