Auburn, Ala.--After having a chance to watch his defense on video from Saturday night's 17-3 victory over the Ole Miss Rebels, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp says that several players stood out to him as having productive nights as the Tigers shut down the Rebels.
"He (Antonio Coleman), in 43 snaps had 30 production points, which is outstanding," Muschamp says. "Pat Sims had 25 points. Patrick Lee had 19. Tray Blackmon and Chris Evans both were high. We had some guys that produced well, but not in the secondary because not a whole lot got to them. They didn't get the ball down the field much. Our front seven contained most of the game."
In yet another game where Auburn faced a physical running game, the Tiger defense again stepped up and played well, holding the Rebels to just 70 yards on 29 carries. Muschamp says much of the reason for Auburn's good play on defense this season has been because of defensive front that has gotten the job done.
"The big thing that I see from our front seven is that we've improved every week," Muschamp says. "I feel like every week we've gone out and done some positive things for the most part this season. I think Antonio Coleman and Pat Sims and Sen'Derrick Marks and Josh Thompson, those guys have really played consistent football. Quentin's injury has set him back in the run game, but he's played well on third down and rushed the passer well all year. Those guys have really played consistent.
"We've been able to get quality snaps out of Jermarcus Ricks and Mike Blanc and Antoine Carter so we've been able to develop some good depth. Having Tray back is really good for us as far as the run fits and his instincts. He makes an awful lot of things happen."
Also a concern against Ole Miss was their ability to hit some big plays in the passing game. Because of that Auburn was looking to get pressure from the front four and keep two safeties in the middle of the field as much as possible and not be forced to blitz. Muschamp says because of his guys up front they were able to do just that.
"Any time we gave them middle of the field coverage (one deep safety) they went to the backside X, which is Mike Wallace, who has made big plays on everybody," Muschamp says. "We didn't have to do that much. We were able to stay in split safety coverage and stay rolled up on him and affect the passer with four guys rushing. When they wanted to throw the ball down the field we hit the quarterback every time.
"We did our best job this season of pushing the pocket with four guys," he adds. "We didn't run up the field at end. We were able to contain the pocket. We pushed the pocket. He had no where to step up in the pocket. There were no throwing lanes and that's a key part of the passing game. He didn't have any visible throwing lanes down the field. Our two inside guys did a good job of balancing the rush and our ends did a good job of collapsing the outside and converting speed to power."
This season no Auburn defensive player has done a better job of making plays than Coleman. Taking on a bigger role when Groves went down with a foot injury in the Florida game, Coleman has turned into a playmaker for Auburn's defense this season. In nine games he has 26 tackles, a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss and also leads the team with six sacks. In the last four games he has exploded with 14 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, and three sacks. Muschamp says he's seen a lot of improvement out of the Mobile native since spring practice.
"He has really continued to work hard," Muschamp says. "He has really grown up. He was a guy that last spring I didn't know he would step forward as much as he has. He has really accepted the opportunity that has been presented in front of him. He has cashed in on being not just a pass rusher and space player, but he's really playing the runs well. He's a fast-twitch guy. He's able to give the tackles a hard time because of his strength, power and quickness. I have been really pleased with how he's progressed this year.
"Antonio does exactly what you coach him to do," Muschamp adds. "He's one of those guys that is always going to play within the scheme of what we're trying to do. Within that he takes his natural ability and makes a lot of plays."
This week could be the chance for several young players to get extensive snaps on defense as the Tigers take on Tennessee Tech for homecoming. While players such as Josh Bynes, Michael McNeil, Zach Clayton, Ryan Williams and others have played some this season, it may be the chance to see them get a lot of work, but Muschamp says at the moment that's not on his mind. His only concern is improving and playing well. Everything else will take care of itself if that happens.
"We need to play well," Muschamp says. "We won't approach this game different than we've approached any other game this season. I don't believe in doing that. We're going to approach Tennessee Tech like we approach any game. We're going in to win and dominate the game and play the way we're capable of playing and play to our abilities. If it presents itself that more guys can play then certainly that's what we want to do."