New Defensive Coordinator Ready to Hit the Field

With spring practice opening this week, Auburn's new defensive coordinator will start to put his signature on the 2005 AU team.

Auburn, Ala.--The newest member of the Auburn University football coaching staff says he is eager to get on the practice field on Tuesday for the first time as a member of Tommy Tuberville's staff.

David Gibbs, who has experience as a defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota and a secondary coach with the NFL's Denver Broncos, will coach the cornerbacks and safeties for the Tigers this year and coordinate the overall defense.

"I am excited about hiring David as our defensive coordinator and I think he is going to be a major asset to our program," Tuberville says.

Gibbs took over the vacancy created when Gene Chizik left Auburn for the University of Texas following a 13-0 season for the Tigers. Tuberville says the plan is to build on what Auburn has been doing successfully in recent years on defense and add some new ideas to the package.

The new coach has been watching video of his secondary and other returning players on defense. He has also had a chance to study the players in winter conditioning workouts.

Gibbs says it is too early to come to many conclusions about who will play where in the secondary when the season starts. He notes there is a good chance that players could be moved to a new position this spring. However, he is sure about how he wants his defensive backs to play.

"At the safety spot we want guys who are smart and don't make mistakes," Gibbs says. "We want players there who can get people lined up right who are good tacklers. If there is one attribute in my mind that a DB has to have is that you have got to be willing to throw your body around to get people on the ground.

"You don't have to be a killer," Gibbs adds. "Nobody says you have to be a killer, but you have to have an 85 percent to 90 percent conversion rate on your tackles. You can't miss tackles. If we miss them on the back end, they are big runs and touchdowns.

"If we can make the tackles, those are 10 or 12 yard gains and we can line up and play another down," Gibbs says. "At the other positions, if somebody misses a tackle we can save them, but if the secondary misses it you are giving up six points and you are usually losing football games if you give up big plays."

Commenting on the cornerbacks, Gibbs says, "You have got to be able to cover, play man to man and you have to be able to win. At the same time, if you are playing man to man, and they crack your eight man in the box defense you have to be able to tackle.

"There aren't any Deion Sanders out there anymore," he adds. "If you can't tackle the offenses will find you," he says. "They will make you tackle. Who will cover is something we will focus on at that position, but at the same time you have got to tackle."

Travis Williams will be a senior this season for the Tigers.

Gibbs notes that he is impressed with what he has seen of the linebackers in video from the 2004 season and workouts. All three of the starters return there for the Tigers with Travis Williams, the middle linebacker, coming off a first team All-SEC performance.

However, the Tigers lost both starting defensive ends with Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld playing as seniors last year. The Tigers must also replace another senior, starting tackle Jay Ratliff.

The Tigers must also replace multi-year secondary starters, Junior Rosegreen and Carlos Rogers.

"We need a couple of young defensive linemen to step up and a couple of defensive backs," Gibbs adds. "Whether or not they step up will go a long way toward telling the story of how good a defense we are.

"You can have the greatest linebackers in the world, but if the defensive linemen don't keep the blockers off you, you can't make any tackles," Gibbs says. "If you can't cover, you can't play very good defense. I think the pressure is on finding a couple of young defensive linemen to step up and a couple of young defensive backs, whether they are corners or safeties."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Gibbs says the biggest adjustment for him in coming back to the college game is dealing with so many more players than he did as secondary coach with the Broncos. "The transition has been hard, but has been fun," he says. "I am not used to having this many guys around. I am used to having 10-12 guys around, but now I have 20 and that is not even counting the rest of the defense, but heck, they understand. It is part of growing. By the time we line up for real, we will know each others' names and faces."

In addition to learning the players, Gibbs has been learning the names Auburn uses for plays in its 4-3 defensive system. Last spring Tuberville required then first-year offensive coordinator Al Borges to use the offensive terms that the players and rest of the coaching staff already were using to make the adjustment to a new system go more smoothly. "I have watched a lot of game video learning the terminology and trying to figure out why Auburn did certain things in certain situations and trying to acclimate myself to the verbiage," Gibbs says. "The ones who are here this year, I will have plenty of time to see them in the 15 days of spring and the number of days of practice we get in August. I will have plenty of time to evaluate them. It is not rocket science. The best players will be on the field and if not something is wrong with me."

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