AU Football Coach Looking for Consistency

A report on the Auburn football team's defense is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--When Auburn returns to the football practice field to start bowl workouts, first-year AU defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says the Tigers will be looking for improvement as they prepare for a Cotton Bowl New Year's Eve date with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The Tigers haven't practiced or played a game since closing the regular season on Nov. 18th with a victory over Alabama to improve to 10-2. Nebraska will bring a 9-4 mark into the contest.

Academics and conditioning will be the focus for Auburn's players until the Tigers hit the practice field on Dec. 14th.

"The big thing is to work on fundamentals and getting back in the swing of things because we have had a long break since the Alabama game," Muschamp says.

"We plan to use the first three or four practices to work good on good (first team vs. first team)," he notes. "We also want to work the young players and get them a lot of reps. The last three or four practices before the break we will turn our attention to Nebraska."

The Cornhuskers, 9-4, are the runnersup in the Big 12 Conference. It will be just the fourth time the two teams have met in football. Nebraska is 3-0 all-time vs. the Tigers, including a 1-0 mark in postseason play with a 13-7 win over Auburn in the New Year's Day 1964 Orange Bowl.

"We really needed some time off," Muschamp says of the Auburn defense which played 12 straight weeks without a break. "We were pretty beat up down the stretch. We will get some the guys healthy. I know they have been working at their rehab. Yox (strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall) has been lifting them good. I am looking forward to getting those guys back on track."

Auburn is seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing 13.9 points per game. However, the defensive coordinator is not satisfied with that.

"We were just very inconsistent," Muschamp says. "We played well at times, and did some good things, but we aren't consistent to the standard we are used to.

"We have to improve our play up front and we have to eliminate the big plays down the field. If you look at the season as a whole, when we played well we kept people out of the end zone in the red area (inside the 20-yard line).

Karibi Dede made a move to middle linebacker during his senior season.

"We have got to improve on third down," adds Muschamp, whose team is eighth in the SEC in third down defense, allowing conversions on 38.8 percent of the attempts. "We faltered throughout the year on third down.

"We have got to get better play up front so we don't have to put as many people in the box so to speak and open ourselves up on the back end. I thought that was the difference in some games like the LSU game and the Alabama game. We were able to play a seven-man box and stop the run and in some other games we didn't do that. In some other games we felt like we needed to load up the box. That creates one-on-ones down the field. If you don't make plays on the ball you are going to give up some big plays, which we did.

"Inconsistent is the one word that keeps coming to my mind as I watch the film of the season," Muschamp notes. "Obviously, the Georgia game was a big disappointment the way we coached and played. A big thing you see is that we got great effort all year. They played their hearts out. We just have to do a better job of putting them in a position to be successful."

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