Rhoads Looking For More From Defense

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads talks about a position move and what he's looking for out of the defense heading into the A-Day Game.

Auburn, Ala.--Following more than a week off for spring break, the Auburn Tigers got back on the football field Tuesday morning for a two-hour practice in full pads. When they took the field for the first time there were changes on both sides of the ball to the first and second teams.

Defensively the change that came about was the move of junior Aairon Savage to the first team ahead of fellow junior Walter McFadden. A two-year starter at safety despite battling through injuries during his sophomore year, Savage looks to be a better fit at the cornerback position and Coach Paul Rhoads said they wanted to reward him for his improved play throughout spring by giving him a shot with the first unit.

"He's played at a more consistent level in my opinion the second-third of spring ball, practices 6-10," Rhoads said. "As we started spring practice, all 11 that were on the field, that there were no spots that are earned and probably when we leave spring practice there won't be many spots that will be earned.

"I wanted to see how it rode and I thought Aairon was advancing a little bit faster than Walt. I wanted to see him compete with the one's both with our guys and against our guys."

Rhoads (left side with his back to the photo) watches intently as A.J. Greene and Josh Bynes take on the offensive line during a three-on-three drill.

While the move of Savage was the only on defense for Tuesday, it might not be the last on the defensive side of the ball before spring is finished. Several players are doing well at the moment, including linebacker Josh Bynes. The development of several younger players could mean some position moves down the road. Rhoads said it's something they'll look at beginning today.

"There quite possibly could be after we watch today's practice film," Rhoads said. "I think we've got some guys that are showing they are definite one's at this point, but there is a lot of time until September."

Auburn hasn't practiced since taking part in a half-scrimmage on the Thursday before spring break. With a lengthy session filled with a lot of passing from Coach Tony Franklin's offense, Rhoads said he was pleased with how his defense held up in the scrimmage even with some lapses at times.

"My number one impression coming out of that last scrimmage is that we tackled much better," Rhoads said. "I believe there were 100 gradable snaps in that scrimmage and we missed six tackles total in 100 plays. That's pretty good defensive football tackling-wise at any level. That was pleasing to our eye.

"I think our effort was better overall. It's still not satisfactory yet, but our effort was better. The middle part of the scrimmage I thought we got after it and were productive. We started slow, but finished poorly."

The Tigers will practice Thursday morning and again Friday afternoon before Saturday's A-Day Game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Rhoads said there are several things he wants to see his defense improve on before playing in front of the public on Saturday.

"There are three things," Rhoads said. "We've got to continue to tackle better. We've got to become a smarter football team. We've got to become more urgent in everything that we do."

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