Auburn, Ala.--Safety Tristan Davis has been a fan favorite since last season for his explosive play with the football in his hands. That has continued this season as Davis is one of the top kickoff returners in the country but now his focus is on improving on defense with starting safety Aairon Savage banged up with a burner in his shoulder.
Last week Savage sat out Auburn's game against Tulane and that meant that both Davis and Lorenzo Ferguson got extended playing time for the first time in their careers at Auburn. Davis says that the game went well and he felt like he did a good job overall in his first real action. He notes that the experience should make both players better now that they've gotten their feet wet.
"I played pretty good at safety," Davis says. "I didn't make many big plays but I didn't let anything get behind me except for a guy that made a good play on a good throw. It was a very good throw by the quarterback. Overall I did pretty good. I didn't bust any coverages or anything."
"It's great for our confidence," he adds. "There's nothing like getting reps to make you a better ball player. The more you do it and more you practice it, practice is good but once you get in the game there is nothing that compares to it. You play better and get comfortable making the calls and you just know the situations better."
Defensively the game continued a trend of up and down performances for Auburn's defense this season. Mixed in with very good performances in games against Washington State, LSU and Florida, there have also been less than stellar outings against South Carolina, Arkansas and Saturday against Tulane. Davis says that Auburn's defense hasn't shut down opponents but they continue to keep people out of the end zone and in the end that's the name of the game.
"Sometimes you have to pick your poison," Davis says. "When it all boils down to it as long as you don't give up a lot of big plays and get stops in the red zone then you're going to be a successful defense. Right now we're doing pretty good in the red zone allowing teams to only kick field goals. We're like a bend but don't break defense."
Davis is a natural kick returner that has brought an explosiveness to the Auburn special teams.
Davis' play in the secondary is just one of the things he brings to the table for the Tigers and it may not be his most important asset. A dynamic return man this season, Davis is leading the SEC averaging 27.8 yards per kickoff return this season but he has yet to take one back for a touchdown. Saturday he again got close as he crossed the 50-yard line only to run out of room. He says that's something they are always pushing for and sooner or later he thinks it will happen.
"It is kind of getting on my nerves a little bit," Davis says. "I'm always one block or one guy away from taking it the distance. All I can do is keep running and keep trusting my blockers because they are doing a great job. I'll just keep trying to score on every return."
Davis has been fortunate to have fantastic blocking this season out of the kickoff return unit. That shows with Brad Lester's average of 24.8 per return, meaning it's not all about Davis' ability to take the ball from his own goal line. Davis says the entire unit is having fun right now and working had to get even better.
"We take a lot of pride in it," Davis says. "It seems like that's one thing everybody is waiting on so everybody knows they are going to have to block because we've been so close. They take a lot of pride in it."