Excitement High On Defense This Spring

The practice field was no place for the faint of heart on Tuesday as hard hits were the order of the day for the Auburn defense.

Auburn, Ala.--Tuesday saw the Tigers in full pads for the first time this spring and also saw a new attitude on the defensive side of the ball for Auburn.

Under the direction of new coordinator Gene Chizik, the defense showed a more aggressive style of play. Nowhere was that more evident than in the secondary and over the middle as several big hits highlighted the day.

"The defense is flying around," senior strong safety Rashaud Walker told Inside The Auburn Tigers. "Coach Chizik came in and made it simple. He teaches from the basics all the way up to the top and he has a lot of guys real energetic. Mainly, I think that's because we know what we're doing. We ran this coverage a little bit last year. It's kind of in the back of our heads, but he taught us the little bits and pieces of it that allow us to fly around and be very energetic."

Horace Willis is finally healthy and showing why he was in contention for a starting job last fall.

While the defense continues to have times where it looks lost, for the most part on Tuesday the defenders more than held their own against an offense that has shown some signs of life already in just a few short days of practice. Piercing hits by defensive backs Junior Rosegreen, Rashaud Walker and Roshard Gilyard wowed the spectators on the practice fields and cornerback Horace Willis also continues to play well. However, the play of a redshirt freshman linebacker may have stood out the most.

Listed at second team behind senior Mark Brown, Jake Slaughter is a player that catches your eye when you step on the practice field. A solid-looking specimen at 6-2, 232 pounds and one of the stronger players on the team, the Nashville native says this defense has been fun to learn to this point and he is looking forward to continuing his development behind Brown.

Jake Slaughter drops into pass coverage from his middle linebacker position.

"It's definitely good," Slaughter noted. "The defense is a lot easier to learn, I think. It's a lot more attack oriented and playing the run. That's what I like. The intensity is great and we're having fun. I think we were so excited to get out there the first day that we wanted to hit somebody."

With a big hit of his own to show for Tuesday's practice and also a pass-breakup on a Daniel Cobb toss over the middle intended for Justin Fetsko, Slaughter said this defense is perfectly suited for his game. A classic middle linebacker who uses a blend of muscle and mind to make plays on the field, Slaughter says he expects big things out of the defense the rest of spring practice.

"This defense pretty much lets the linebackers make plays," Slaughter said. "That's what we love to do. It sets us up where the linemen will take blockers and just let us get in there and make tackles and make big plays. That's why we love it and think it's a good defense. I think it's the perfect match with the mike (linebacker) to bring him right into the middle of everything. The mike in the 4-3 has to make a lot of tackles. I love it. I think it's perfect."

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