If you are looking at any of the Auburn boards right now all you are hearing about is how the Auburn Defense is terrible. Some are even calling for Ted Roof’s head. Give me a break, the Auburn D is young... but they have to improve. Yes Arkansas whipped Auburn’s collective tails, but the Tiger defense did not play any different then it has all season. The only difference I can see regarding the defense is that we as fans are expecting the young guys to get better, and they are not.
Everyone wants to talk about the linebackers so lets do that. Freeman did not make the trip to Fayetteville for "personal reasons." I see Tray Blackmon all over again in him. This kid has talent… you can see it, but he does not have the skills right now to be trusted. I am wondering if his "personal issue" is the fact that he is going to be riding the pine. I hope that is not the case, Auburn needs him. The linebacking corps is too thin as it is, lose another body and I see trouble ahead. Josh Bynes is a great run stopper, but he is terrible in pass coverage. What I am noticing most about him this season is that he is "shooting" the wrong gap. When he does choose the correct gap, he is getting blocked by either a tight end or a pulling guard and making the tackle from the backside. Some one with the talent of Bynes should be able to shed the block of a tight end. Bynes has plenty of tackles (in fact he leads the team), but he is still not where he needs to be a good bit of the time. Adam Herring is the most consistent linebacker right now… wow that is hard to say. This from a guy who did not practice until the season had almost started.
On to the secondary, the cornerbacks are giving too big a cushion. Has anyone noticed that? It is like they are in a prevent defense. Watch Neiko Thorpe, Harry Adams, and Walter McFadden, their first three steps are always in retreat. No wonder the receivers can catch the quick passes. If they break a tackle they are gaining 10-15 before a safety can get over there. Speaking of safety, Daren Bates is getting better, but he still loses his responsibility in coverage.
As far as the front four is concerned, all I can say is that Auburn has not pressured a QB all season. The ends are consistently getting "sucked in" and losing containment of the outside. This allows folks like Michael Smith from Arkansas and Noel Devine from WVU to run wildly on the outside.
My opinion is that the reason our defense is struggling is not entirely on the players, or the fact that we are thin at linebacker. It is that the Auburn defense is as vanilla as it comes. Zone, Zone and more Zone, there are very few blitzes. The front four do some slants and stunts, but that is about it. Auburn needs to bring the extra guy sometimes. SEC QBs are too good. Ryan Mallett got rattled when Bama brought the heat, and he made mistakes. Auburn let him sit back in the pocket and he ate the Tigers alive. I think that Jordan Jefferson can do the same thing if need be. His receivers will make the plays for him. Jevan Snead can do it for sure. Hell for that matter Joe Cox can complete a 5 yard slant, or quick out. Auburn is going to have to mix it up, if they are going to right the ship.
Auburn fans are complaining about the defense because we as Auburn fans have been spoiled over the last 10 years or so. Auburn is known for having great defenses. This year was supposed to be a rebuilding year, we all knew that. We just got overly excited because it appeared that our offense would blow other teams out. We took for granted that our defense would be fine. While outscoring teams is still possible, when Chris Todd and the boys are not clicking the defense is going to have to at least slow the other team down. Chizik is a great defensive mind, and in my opinion he needs to get Ted Roof in the SEC mind frame. Zone will not get it done, not all the time. Auburn is going to have to mix it up. The young guys are going to have to learn. There is no such thing as a first year starter at the halfway point in the season. They should have learned enough by now to be ready. The Tigers have a string of ranked opponents upcoming, and they all are much better than Arkansas. We shall see how this all plays out.
War Damn Eagle