Getting ready for a no-huddle offense that South Florida employs, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says his guys have had a good week of preparation starting on Monday. With a mobile quarterback and several talented running backs to deal with, Muschamp says the Tigers have spent plenty of time this week working on the basics.
"I think we've had a good preparation week," Muschamp says. "Having Labor Day off, we didn't have it off, but it was a good work day getting ready for South Florida. They are a very difficult team to get ready for because they throw a lot at you. They've got a new coordinator in Greg Gregory and we're anticipating them to do a lot of the same things they've done because of the success they've had offensively to this point."
Something that should help the Tigers defensively Saturday night is that sophomores Tray Blackmon (ankle) and Aairon Savage (ankle) as well as Jonathan Wilhite (hamstring) all practiced on Wednesday and both Muschamp and linebacker Coach James Willis say they should be ready to go against the Bulls.
"They've practiced," Muschamp says. "We've gotten them reps and they'll be game ready.
"He's done everything we've asked of him," Willis says of Blackmon. "He's gotten his mental reps. He has come to film study. He has fooled around a little bit on the field too. We expect him to show up and be ready to play for us."
Aairon Savage injured his ankle in the first half of Auburn's win over Kansas State and never returned to the game.
This week the Tigers have spent a large portion of each practice working on the fundamentals of tackling. That's something the defensive coaches weren't happy with in the season opener against Kansas State and this week it will be important because Muschamp says South Florida presents a unique challenge offensively that makes open field tackling even more important.
"It is a little different (to prepare for) because they create plays in space," Muschamp adds. "You've got to make plays in space on these guys. You've got to make tackles in space. They are very talented at the wide receiver position. They've got a tough, hard-nosed quarterback that's just a gamer. He plays awful hard. They've got about five backs they play. Ford (Mike Ford) had an outstanding game Saturday night obviously. They present you a lot of different looks and different issues. They kind of package by game what they want to do. We'll have to adjust throughout the game to what they are doing and how they are trying to attack us.
"With a new coordinator you're kind of guessing a little bit where they are and what they're going to do. I don't think they're going to get too far away from what has gotten them in the program to this point and that is the gun runs, spread the field, throw the ball, and create a lot of plays in space. You've just got to tackle well. This game comes down to tackling. You've got to get them on the ground when you've got the opportunity."
While quarterback Matt Grothe is obviously a key for the Auburn defense because of his ability to run the football as well as throw it, South Florida's no huddle attack is what gives a lot of teams fits because it usually controls what the defense can do during a game. Muschamp says that shouldn't be a concern for his unit because it's something they're prepared for every game with each defender wearing a wristband with defensive plays numbered on it.
"We don't huddle on defense so we're able to communicate," Muschamp says. "That's why we don't huddle. We'll play three or four teams throughout the season that are no huddle. I don't like to get to game week and then panic about communicating against a no huddle."