Another Year, Another Defensive Scheme

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof talks about his background as a coach and his plans for Auburn.

Auburn, Ala.—From Gene Chizik in 2004 to David Gibbs to Will Muschamp and then Paul Rhoads in 2008, Auburn has had more than its share of defensive coordinators in recent years. Several fifth-year senior defenders were recruited to Auburn to play under Chizik prior to his move to Texas between the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

With Chizik returning to Auburn as head coach and Ted Roof taking over the defense, most of the key players expected to contribute to the defense in 2009 have seen wildly different personalities from their coordinators. Roof is the sixth defensive coordinator in five seasons at Auburn.

"How would I describe myself? I don't know." Roof remarks. "I am who I am and what I am. I want to compete and I want to win. I want to say our guys play a hard-nosed physical style of defense that Auburn is known for and that Auburn people deserve."

Roof adds that he likely won't be head-butting players who still have their helmets on after big plays, but he does have some fire to him.

"I think I might be the answer to a trivia question," he jokes. "I might be the only guy in Atlantic Coast Conference history to get either a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as a player, as an assistant coach and as a head coach."

Roof may use different tactics to energize his players than Muschamp used, but his philosophy with X's and O's may be closer to Muschamp's than any of the other recent coordinators.

"We're pretty multiple in what we do," Roof explains. "I think you've got to have a system that's adaptable to different types of people, especially when you're coming into a new situation. It's one thing if you've been at a place for several years and you recruit to a different system and it's another thing when you come in new and have a system that's broad enough and diverse enough to handle whatever personnel.

"We'll play some four-down fronts and mix with some three-down (linemen) stuff," he adds. "In this league you don't trick people. You've got to out-hit people. There isn't going to be much tricking going on.

"I want it to be where our players, when something breaks, they understand how to fix it from a player's standpoint, because they know that package to the ‘n'th detail," Roof continues. "The more multiple you become, obviously the more reps and the more time. We're limited time-wise with all of their other obligations as a college student. We're going to do as much as we need to win."

Roof, who came to Auburn after one year at Minnesota in which he turned the Gophers defense almost 180 degrees, used many different personnel groups against Big 10 competition last season.

"I don't think this is a trick ‘em league," he says of the SEC. "I think this is 'line up and hit people and see what happens.' Eight of the teams up there are some version of the spread. I'm not insinuating that that's a trick ‘em league, but that was what our personnel dictated. We like to be multiple, but at the same time, as a coach I've kind of gone full circle."

Roof says he's learned his philosophies from just about anyone he's been around from his playing days at Georgia Tech in the early 1980's to other coaches he's been around.

"I learned something from everybody I worked with or worked for," he says. "All of the coordinators and coaches that I played for, the head coaches that I worked for, but as far as the fundamentals there would be too many guys."

Prior to joining Tim Brewster's staff at Minnesota, Roof was head coach at Duke from 2003-2007 and also interim head coach for part of the 2002 season. The Blue Devils were just 6-45 during Roof's tenure, but he says the experience has helped him to become a better assistant.

"What I found was an experience that developed a skill set that you can only get by being a head football coach," he explains. "You think that you understand it all as an assistant sometimes, but you really don't–the magnitude of every decision and every word that comes out of your mouth. It was a great experience for me. Whatever did or did not come out of it, I have the skill set that nobody can ever take away from me. By going through that I'm a much better assistant coach than I was before I became a head coach. You understand the way things are looked at and the impact of every action, every word, every statement. At the end of the day it all ends up on one desk. You think you're ready for it and you think you know all there is to know, but like with any job you don't really know all there is to know until you've done it. It was a lot of fun."

At the same time, Roof says the Duke experience had its bumps in the road.

"I'd use the word ‘frustrated,'" he continues, "because when you're a competitor and you invest yourself into it and you invest your life into it, you invest or you family into it, you want to have good results. We did, but we just didn't win enough football games. If you really look at why you do this–and you do it to have a positive impact on somebody's life and seek people that get great degrees, have a great collegiate experience and grow as young men. But at the end of the day in our business you're also judged on winning and losing too.

"You can't change that part, but you can certainly take great pride in the other parts of the program that we very successful in," Roof adds. "We were winning national championships in graduation rates and developing good citizens, but we didn't win enough football games. I think you can do all of those things at Auburn."


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