Under new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the Tigers have already started to become more aggressive in the secondary and up front. In turn that has created a different atmosphere on the field for Wilhite and his teammates, one he says is nothing but positive.
"I compare it to a big-time defense," Wilhite says. "Last year we were real basic. Now we're going to be able to give teams lots of fronts. We've got athletes on defense. We had athletes last year, but we're going to throw things at teams this year to mess their heads up. Coach Muschamp has brought in a good defense. I love it and the personality of the defense. We're going to be pretty good."
Coming in from junior college last year, Wilhite was thrown into the fire for the Tigers at cornerback. Finishing fifth on the team with 47 tackles, the sophomore showed flashes of brilliance and also the mistakes that come with being a first-year player in the SEC. He says a year later he's more comfortable on the field and that has translated to better play.
"I know what to expect now," Wilhite says. "I gained a little weight in the off-season. That year under your belt helps a lot because now I know a lot of receivers on the other teams. I can study them know and know their strengths and weaknesses. Having that year under my belt is going to help me a lot. The biggest thing is now I'm going to know what to expect."
Jonathan Wilhite has been perhaps Auburn's top defensive player this spring.
One thing he didn't expect was a dramatic change on defense. While some things remain the same, the spring has been a learning time for the defense as Muschamp has brought his own ideas to the defense to mesh with things that were already working. Wilhite says it has made the need for communication very important as the Tigers get closer towards the annual A-Day game on March 18.
"Each day we get in at least four new plays," Wilhite says. "Me and the guys are just going out and helping each other. We're progressing as one. Because of the new plays, we're having to help each other out. The defensive line tells the linebacker the calls and tells them what they're doing. The linebackers tell the safeties and so forth. There's a lot of room for improvement for the defense and for me myself. Coach Muschamp is going to keep throwing stuff in. We've only got 15 days left so we're trying to get better and better each day."
Another difference with the defense this spring has been the element of disguise. While there is definitely a more aggressive feel to the unit, Wilhite says that teams may not be able to tell what the Tigers are going to do until the ball is snapped. That's something he likes.
"A team wouldn't be able to prepare for you," Wilhite says. "They can prepare for one thing and then you throw another thing at them. Coach Muschamp is always talking about a multiple defense. We're going to be able to do a lot of things. We've got a lot of athletes and we're going to use them this year."
With fellow starter David Irons back at cornerback along with experienced safeties such as Eric Brock and Steve Gandy behind them, the secondary is expected to be very solid for the Tigers in 2006. For Wilhite the work on that began this spring and so far he's pleased with the things they've done.
"I think in the secondary the guys are coming together," Wilhite says. "Coach Muschamp is playing a big part in it. Like I said, we've got a lot of athletes and we can do a lot of things. Some guys have moved around and that will probably benefit the team more. The secondary is probably going to be one of the strengths on the team next year. We're going out every day and we're practicing hard. We're communicating. We're friends on the field and we're helping each other off the field. The secondary is going to play an important role on the defense this year."