Dunn Going Deep on D-Line

Auburn defensive line coach Don Dunn talks about his five players and the Clemson offense.

Atlanta, Ga.--The fast-paced spread offense of Clemson presents numerous problems for defenses, but one aspect in Auburn's favor for the Chick-fil-A Bowl is depth on the defensive front. Needing extra bodies to keep up with the pace of coordinator Rob Spence's offense, Auburn defensive tackles coach Don Dunn is expecting to use all five of his players after using just three in the Iron Bowl victory over Alabama.

"Zach Clayton had a twisted ankle and he couldn't really play," Dunn notes. "Mike Blanc didn't play much either. I want to play them a lot more in this game. They're both healthy now.

"We've got five that are healthy and five that I expect to play," he adds, with Josh Thompson and Pat Sims as the starters and Jake Ricks as the other reserve. "Usually you've got three. I'm real excited about that. We need to play them all. The dome is a little different with a different temperature in there. If you're not careful you'll get gassed, so I'm going to be able to play them a lot and often.

"I think our kids are going to be excited about it," Dunn continues. "They don't have to worry about wet turf or rain or wind or cold weather, so they'll be jacked up about it."

Thompson leads the tackles this season with 59 stops. Sims has 32 with 8.5 behind the line of scrimmage and 3.5 sacks. Ricks and Clayton have eight stops apiece and Blanc has six. Sen'Derrick Marks, who plays inside and out and Dunn jokes that he wishes he could claim as a tackle, has 40 stops and 7.5 for a loss this season.

Clemson's offense, commanded by 6-4 Cullen Harper at quarterback, is arguably as multiple as the Auburn defense has seen this year. With different plays, formations, shifts and motions all the time, it won't necessarily affect the defensive tackles when Clemson shifts the strongside of the field.

"They do a lot of formations," Dunn explains. "That really doesn't affect us. We might slide from a right to a left. We don't flop them (noseguard and tackle), we just slide them.

"They have great skill guys," he continues. "The running backs are excellent. The quarterback is very intelligent... (only) six turnovers I think on interceptions is unbelievable. We've got to stop the run. They're kind of unusual that they don't get down in a stance. They're all pre-set except in the goal line. We've got to attack and be very physical. Our three-technique is really going to play a big role in this game--getting a push on the zone plays and things like that. They have a real good offense and I'm sure we're going to see a lot of things we haven't seen because they've had so much time off. They give you a lot of different looks every game. They don't run the same thing every game. Coach Spence, that's kind of his M-O."

Clemson running backs James Davis (Thunder) and C.J. Spiller (Lightning) have drawn the comparisons over the last two years to duos like Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and even Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. The Tigers also have talented wideouts in Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham, but the focus up front will be continaining Davis and Spiller.

"When we play well against the run, we do well (as a team)," Dunn notes. "That's been our deal all year.

"I think you've got to say, ‘Look guys... We've played against some of the best in the country. Not only at Arkansas, there are a lot of good backs in the SEC.' These two are as good, and they're a little different because there's not so much power. They like to get to get the ball to the corner. They can catch the ball out of the backfield. They use them a lot--#28 (Spiller) catching the ball and #1 (Davis).

"They like to get the speed sweep," he adds. "They like to get on the edge, they like to get them the ball in the air on screens and flairs and things like that, but they will run the power play down hill. They're more edge guys, but they're good."

Tiger Ticket Notes
Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville has said that he expects Pat Sims to return for his junior season, and Don Dunn says he has not spoken with Sims about the possibility of leaving early. "I have not mentioned anything to him," Dunn explains. "I would be surprised if he wasn't back. I know after the bowl game he'll sit down with Coach Tuberville and Coach (Will) Muschamp and myself. We want what's best for him. Selfishly, I think he needs to come back. Again, this is just me talking. I don't think he's quite ready for the NFL. I think he can play in the NFL. I have not talked to him about that. We'll address it after the bowl game."

Dunn says that the two days of practice in Atlanta have been solid for the Tigers. "The kids have had a great attitude. I thought we had a real good practice yesterday and another good one today (Thursday). I thought our tempo was a little better today and we seemed to move around better. I'm real pleased with their attitude, they've been attentive in meetings and on time, all of the things you expect out of this group... good leadership out of the seniors.

"It's been good," he adds. "You always worry about, ‘Have you practiced enough? Have you not practiced enough?' I think Coach (Tuberville) has done a great job. Last year we had the same format pretty much and we played pretty well. I think it's good for them to get a chance to go home because they haven't been home since August 1st. Then they come back and we had a good meeting the first night we were here. Everybody was on time. That's always a good sign. You worry about them traveling not being back on time. It's been good practices--excellent practice today, I thought."


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