Change In Defensive Depth Chart For Tigers

Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs talks about the switch on defense and looking for improvement on defense.

Auburn, Ala.-–With the coolest temperatures of the football season to date, the 19th-ranked Auburn Tigers got back to work Tuesday afternoon with a two-hour practice in full pads as they prepare to face the Ole Miss Rebels. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs says he's been happy with the practices since losing 20-17 in overtime to LSU last Saturday night.

"We had a good practice," Gibbs says. "It was upbeat. Tuesday's are hard days, but it was intense and the kids were into it. It's obviously bouncing back from a tough defeat, but we've got good kids here. These guys are quality kids and they understand that you better go out there and play good this week or you're going to get beat again. It was a good Tuesday. We've got three more good days of practice to get ready to play."

There will be one change on defense for the Tigers this week as redshirt freshman Steve Gandy gets the start at strong safety ahead of sophomore Eric Brock. A reserve this season at both strong and free safety, Gandy has come on strong and Gibbs says he's earned the right to show what he can do against his homestate school.

"Steve has been pushing Eric and in my opinion Will (Will Herring) since training camp," Gibbs says. "I have told him all along the reason he's not starting is that those two guys were the starters coming in and he hasn't really jumped to get ahead. This has been going on for the bulk of the season where easily he could go in the game.

"I didn't know if he was in there and I didn't care if he was in there for who," he adds. "He knows both positions, strong and free, and I just felt like it was time. He's playing well on special teams and I just felt like it was time for him to step up and get more playing time."

Steve Gandy has 14 tackles and one forced fumble this season.

The Tigers are a fairly healthy team after seven games with just Brad Lester the only player that will be out of Saturday's game as he continues to be bothered by a strained groin. Bothered by a thigh bruise, tailback Kenny Irons practiced Tuesday but wasn't full speed. He should be fine for Saturday's game. The same is true of defensive end Christopher Browder, who sprained a knee against Arkansas two weeks ago. Browder practiced in individual drills, but didn't take part in teams drills on Tuesday. He's expected back against Ole Miss.

"I think for the most part, coming out of that war, we're in pretty good shape," Gibbs says. "That's what it was, a physical war on both sides of the ball. I was fortunate enough to get to go back and watch the film of the other side of the ball and that's as physical of a college football game as I've ever seen. We're dinged up, but this is the SEC and that's what you're going to get. Ole Miss isn't going to feel sorry for us. They're going to come after our tails on Saturday afternoon so we have to get ready to go."

Defensively Auburn is coming off a solid effort against LSU when the Tigers held the explosive offense to just 10 points during regulation with the other touchdown coming on a punt return. Even though the numbers were good, Gibbs says the unit must get better in every phase of the game as they head down the homestretch of the schedule.

"Obviously they dropped two touchdown passes so it could have been ugly," Gibbs says. "It could have been worse because they missed a short field goal. Statistics are whatever you want to make them. You could sit there and toot your horn if you want to, but the reality of it was we didn't play good enough to win the game. We had a chance to close the game out in the last four minutes and let them go down and kick a field goal. Then we let them get a first down and kick a short field goal in overtime.

Linebacker Antarrious Williams has been bothered by a stinger in his shoulder, but practiced on Tuesday. He's questionable for Saturday's game.

"By no means are we a finished product. One thing about Auburn University and I've said it since I've been here, Auburn is know for its defense. We're not playing great defense. We're playing good defense. If we're going to make a run at this thing we have to play really good and finish the deal. We haven't done that yet. I'm not mad at the kids. They're giving great effort, but if you sit on your laurels you're not going to get any better."

Saturday's game against Ole Miss is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen regionally on Jefferson Pilot Television. Overall Auburn leads the Rebels 21-8 in the series and has won four of the last five meetings between the two teams.

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