Auburn, Ala.--Through half of the spring the defense had thoroughly dominated the offense in Auburn's practices and scrimmage situations. Saturday that wasn't the case as the running game showed out for the Tigers and left defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and the Auburn defense behind the eight ball for once this spring.
Working on several new wrinkles that included a lot of 3-4, the defense was able to get a great deal of pressure on the quarterbacks with 16 sacks in the 150-play scrimmage. While that was good, they also allowed Auburn's running backs to churn out nearly 300 yards on the ground. Muschamp said that they did some good things, but the glaring weakness on Saturday was against the run.
"We need to play the run better," Muschamp said. "The sacks will come. We'll be able to generate pressure on the quarterback. We need to head butt the guy in front of us and play the run better. That was disappointing today.
"We did some different things today," he added. "We wanted to look at it and see how we fit the run. That's what spring is for, to experiment and see what you can do. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't fit the run as well as I thought we would have, but that's a credit to our offense. They do a good job of running the football. We've got to do a better job of gap control and playing off blocks and getting off blocks and making tackles. I felt like we had some good hits, but we missed some tackles today which is disappointing."
Several players did manage to stand out for the defense despite the tough day. Up front both Alonzo Horton and Octavious Balkcom had big days. Balkcom led the unit in tackles for a loss with four and also added a team-high three sacks. Horton wasn't far behind with seven total tackles, three and a half tackles for a loss and two and a half sacks. Muschamp said that Horton is really coming on and had his best day on Saturday.
"Alonzo is a good athlete," Muschamp said. "He just needs to continue to learn what to do and how to do it and he'll be fine. He's a guy that has a little bit of a motor and good juice on the edge. He's a guy that just needs to continue to come for us. He's just young."
The athletic Horton dominated in pass rush situations Saturday.
Fellow freshman Jerraud Powers also had a big day. Playing some with the first team and coming in with the first team as the nickel back, Powers has shown this spring that he has a knack for making the big play. Saturday he showed that again with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown. Muschamp said that the young defender has already proven he belongs on the field in some capacity for this defense next fall.
"Jerraud has been doing a good job," Muschamp said. "He's still got some (problems) with the foot they operated on, but he's a tough kid. He's a great battler and has great instincts as a defensive back. He made a nice interception for a touchdown today, scoring on defense. I'm real pleased with where he is right now. He'll help us in the nickel and he'll play corner for us."
Auburn's leading tackler for the scrimmage was linebacker Will Herring with 14 tackles. He also added two and a half tackles for losses and two sacks on the day. Safety Tristan Davis was next with 11 tackles and also added an interception. Noseguard Josh Thompson made 10 tackles. Fellow first-team lineman Pat Sims also had a good day with eight tackles and three and a half coming for a loss. Muschamp said that in the end the day was a normal scrimmage that gives the defense plenty to work on before next Saturday's A-Day Game.
"I like to always watch the film before I make a judgment on who played well and who didn't," Muschamp said. "I think we had some good effort and we made some plays here and there. I was disappointed with some plays here and there. It was a typical scrimmage. There was some good and some bad, but we can definitely correct what we did wrong."