Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers take to the turf at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday morning for the first scrimmage of the preseason, it will be a big day for guys on both sides of the ball. While some players have a firm hold on their respective positions going into the day, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says in his mind everything is up for grabs on defense.
"We're looking at all 11," Muschamp says, "all 11 on defense. When we sit down in our meeting Saturday night we want to find out who we feel like we can go into this conference, into the SEC and win with, guys we can count on."
While there have been a lot of different combinations of players on the field the last few days on defense with injuries forcing a few young players such as Adam Herring and Kyle Coulahan into work with the second team defense, Muschamp says the one thing he's been happy about is his defense continues to force turnovers. That has especially been true out of the second unit as each of the last two practices they have intercepted passes that would have gone for touchdowns. Muschamp says that's a key to what his defense is all about.
"We're trying to emphasize turnovers as much as possible," Muschamp says. "It's a critical point in winning games, big play ratio and turnover ratio. At the end of the season last year it was a part of winning some balls games, the turnovers we created and the momentum for our football team. It's something we're emphasizing and trying to reward as much as possible."
Saturday Muschamp and the rest of the coaching staff will have their first chance to see just where everything stands as the Tigers take the field for a scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. With some new faces working on the first team at the moment, including Zac Etheridge at safety and Craig Stevens at linebacker, Muschamp says he wants to see how everyone reacts on a bigger stage with a lot on the line.
"I think the big things you look for are great effort and execution," Muschamp says. "We're not going to do a lot. We're going to line up and play. We'll put them out there for really the first time on their own and let them have great communication, very good tackling and leveraging the ball. That's the basic fundamentals we've been concentrating on for the first 11 practices to see who can carry it from the classroom to the practice field to the game field."
With 11 practices in the books during one of the hotter stretches in many years in Alabama with temperatures well about the 100 degree mark on Friday, fatigue is obviously something that sets in on a football team going through two-a-days. Even though he knows the players will get tired quicker than normal, Muschamp says he wants to see who fights through that and continues to play hard. That's what he's looking for on Saturday.
"It's mental toughness and mind over matter," Muschamp says. "If you don't mind it don't matter. Some guys can push through it and some can't. We'll find out tomorrow."