Stopping The Run A Key For Auburn Defense

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and defensive end Sen'Derrick Marks talk about the challenge of facing a very good Clemson offense.

Atlanta, Ga.—With a new offensive coordinator for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson, Auburn is hoping a few new wrinkles will give them an advantage on that side of the football, but for Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp he sees plenty of that from the offense of Rob Spence.

One of the innovative minds in college football today, Spence guides a Clemson attack that has been successful this season. At or near the top of nearly every statistical category in the ACC, Auburn's Chick-fil-A Bowl opponent has been at its best early in games, something that Muschamp says Auburn will have to do a good job of adjusting to Monday evening.

"What you see each week from them is a different game plan, a different motion, a different shift," Muschamp says. "They give you so many different things. I think in their first series this year in the 12 games they've played, they've scored on eight because of the new adjustments of what they do and the different looks they give you.

"Early in the game we've got to do a good job of adjusting to what they give you and make sure we're prepared to make those adjustments on game day," Muschamp says. "It's tough. The guy does a good job. He's a good play caller."

Helping Spence in his duties is a cupboard full of playmakers led by running backs James Davis (191 carries for 992 yards, 9 touchdowns) and C.J. Spiller (833 all-purpose yards, 4 touchdowns).

To Auburn sophomore defensive end Sen'Derrick Marks the duo is very comparable to Darren McFadden and Felix Jones from Arkansas and he notes his team will treat this game in much the same fashion.

"Everybody knows they've got good running backs," Marks says. "They've got receivers and their quarterback is pretty mobile. He can run with the ball. Their offensive line is good. They've got two of the best running backs, another duo like Arkansas had.

"It's going to be a fight like it was against Arkansas. They've got a power runner like McFadden and a speed runner like Felix. It's just about bearing down against those guys and coming out and making plays."

Marks is a physical presence for Auburn's defense.

That is easier said than done against a Clemson team that scored more than 30 points seven times this season with five games of more than 40 points. Muschamp says just like any game containing the offense starts up front with the ability to stop the run. If Auburn is successful doing that he says it will give them a shot to be successful in the end.

"They've got some good athletes," Muschamp notes. "I think the two backs are game-changers. They are guys that can hit it at any time. The quarterback has been very accurate. They lead the ACC in turnover ratio. They're not turning the ball over and creating negative plays for themselves.

"Stopping the run is going to be the key," the Auburn defensive coordinator adds. "The three games they lost they were under 50 yards rushing. I think if you're able to control the line of scrimmage and stop the run you give yourself a great chance to win the game."

If Auburn is unable to shut down the running game, Muschamp says he won't hesitate to be more aggressive on defense to try to get the job done. While that may lead to some big play opportunities for Clemson's offense, he notes that if Tony Franklin's new offense can give the defense some points he'll be willing to take the risk.

"I think every game is different and every approach to the game is different based on what you feel like you're going to produce on the other side," Muschamp says. "Only time will tell on how they play. We've got a lot of bullets in the gun in every game and the game dictates how you call the game because it's a team game.

"It's not an offense or a defense. You've got to play to the game and the strengths of how it's happening. If it's a high scoring game then you can take some shots. If it's not you've got to keep it close to the vest and that's the way we've played."

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