Tuberville: Physical Defense A Priority

Auburn's head football coach discusses spring football and looks ahead to the 2008 season.

Auburn, Ala.--With the change from the West Coast Offense under Al Borges to new coordinator Tony Franklin's spread offensive system, spring practice 2008 was significantly different than spring drills in previous seasons under Tommy Tuberville at Auburn.

The Tigers are expected to line up in a no-huddle, shotgun formation on almost every snap this season like they did in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Franklin gave the Tigers a crash course in his system during bowl practices and Auburn put it on display for the first time in the overtime bowl win vs. Clemson.

Because the Tigers will face teams that will line up in more traditional formations with the quarterback under center, Tuberville says it will be essential for his team's defense to get plenty of work going against those offensive systems throughout the season.

"It is going to be very important that our scout team is going to be good and physical," the head coach says. "It is going to be important that we have good offensive linemen going against our defense, which I think we will. We have a lot of young guys who will go over and do that. It is how we structure practice.

"Now, everybody will say, ‘How can your defense get better because your offense is going to be out of the shotgun?' What people don't realize, you very seldom go against your offense in game preparation during the season. In two-a-days you do some, and obviously in spring practice.

"The biggest thing you get is the young guys doing the plays for your defense that they are going to see in the game that week. We are going to do things like three on three drills, full speed drills. We are going to be a physical football team.

"My philosophy is that you win with defense," adds Tuberville, who hired Paul Rhoads to take over as defensive coordinator in January after Will Muschamp took a job at the University of Texas following AU's bowl victory.

Tuberville is looking for physical play from returning players such as two-year starter Sen'Derrick Marks.

"I don't care what the offense does, you win championships with how good your defense is and your kicking game," Tuberville says. "Your offense is a bonus so to speak. I think the offense is going to take care of itself. We have to structure practice in ways next fall which make sure we get everything we need to make this team a physical team on defense."

Tuberville says he likes the "effort" he saw from the Tigers in their 15 days of spring practice, which the coach notes were more than just a little different this year.

"The change in offenses has really affected everybody on the field from trainers to managers, to coaches to players--everybody, defense, offense," he says. "We got so many more repetitions in practice because we practiced how we are going to play in the games.

"The biggest difference in this offense is not the running the plays, it is not the passing plays, it is not the formations," Tuberville points out. "You can't do anymore than what people do now, even what we have been doing--it is just the difference in the tempo of what we do. People saw it in the bowl game. We averaged 56 plays a game last year on offense in the regular season and we had 93 in the bowl game. It is just fast-paced. You have to do it in practice to get something out of it so therefore your defense has to practice at that speed.

"I thought the enthusiasm was great, the people were really involved in practice, the newer players and the older players really caught on and we got better and better," Tuberville says of spring drills.

Auburn will open the season with an August 30th home game vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

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