Reserve Power: Defensive Backups Stepping Up

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

Auburn, Ala.--Will Muschamp says he is encouraged about the play of a pair of true freshmen who stepped up with strong performances in game two. The Auburn defensive coordinator also notes that he likes what he saw out of little-used junior linebacker Chris Evans.

"Chris played real well," Muschamp says of his performance in Auburn's 26-23 overtime loss to South Florida. "He ended up being our top production player. He was around the ball and played with great effort. I am real proud of him the way he stepped up and played against a good offense."

Chris Evans

With middle linebacker Tray Blackmon dressed out but not cleared to play because of a lack of mobility in pre-game warmups after suffering an ankle injury in game one, Evans was called on to be the number one middle linebacker.

"Chris came in and made all of the calls for the defense and I thought he really stepped up and played with a great tempo," Muschamp says of the junior, who had only 15 career tackles prior to this season. "He was physical, he was around the football and he made a lot of tackles."

Evans led all tacklers in the game with nine solos and five assists and finished number one in defensive production points ahead of Jerraud Powers, Quentin Groves and SenDerrick Marks.

Two other reserves who earned praise from Muschamp are true freshman safety Michael McNeil and true freshman defensive end Antoine Carter. McNeil had four solo tackles and five assists. Carter made two solo tackles with one assist and a quarterback sack.

McNeil played for Davidson High in Mobile last fall.

"Mike showed up and did some good things for us in his first extensive playing time," Muschamp says. "He played about 40 snaps. I am proud of Mike and the way he came in and played for us. He is only going to get better."

Commenting on Carter, the latest in a series of Auburn players from Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Muschamp says, "He got about 15 snaps and played really well. With his pass rushing ability, he is going to continue to play more."

Carter, McNeil and Evans have the day off on Monday and will return to practice on Tuesday morning as the Tigers prepare for Saturday's SEC opener vs. Mississippi State. Kickoff is set for shortly after 11:30 a.m. from Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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