As we turn the page on the first day of August, Auburn’s turned the page on two days of fall practice. After Gus Malzahn got up and spoke yesterday about position changes, the quarterback battle, and the offensive line, it was time for the Auburn faithful to hear from Kevin Steele tonight in a more defensive-oriented debriefing of practice #2.
From 2015 to 2016, Kevin Steele’s impact on the Auburn defense was readily evident. The Tigers improved in scoring defense from 54th in the country to 7th in the land over that span, giving up more than 20 points just three times over the regular season. However, he began tonight’s post-practice media session by shrugging off what happened last season. Let’s get you the full tweetcap.
What is Auburn doing to build on last year? Steele: "Last year is last year. It has very little to do with this year."— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
He’s not wrong. Auburn will be dealing with the loss of some guys on the defensive line, particularly Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, but there’s a solid group of players left up front.
Steele: "We feel like the defensive line, with the people we have returning, has a good base nucleus there."— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
Steele said Auburn's young linebackers are "giving us everything they got" early in fall camp.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
And with the move of Jason Smith to safety (basically a necessity with Carlito Gonzalez failing to qualify), the Tigers are going to have to do some different things on the back end to disguise the lack of depth.
Steele said Auburn is experimenting with different looks in the secondary to make up for lack of depth at safety.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
Coach Kevin Steele said they're going to create competitiveness on defense by making guys earn it each day— Jason Caldwell (@ITATJason) August 1, 2017
Steele said Auburn has a "Turnover of the Day" award. Makes sure to mention the award is legal by NCAA rules.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
I know Steele says that playing time will be determined by how guys perform in practice, and not the accolades of the past, but he basically admits that Tre Williams will be one of the main guys Auburn leans on defensively.
Steele jokes that Tre Williams is close to having Alabama retirement because he's been at Auburn so long— Jason Caldwell (@ITATJason) August 1, 2017
Having senior linebackers has always been nice to Auburn’s defense. Look at some of the guys who had monster senior seasons that helped lead to pretty good years on the Plains: Josh Bynes/Craig Stevens, Will Herring/Karibi Dede, Travis Williams/Antarrious Williams, Karlos Dansby/Dontarrious Thomas. When Auburn’s got some seniors in the middle, it really helps things along.
In the offseason, you always get one or two workout warriors who bulk up and become exceedingly scary. It looks like Nick Coe is one of this year’s top candidates.
Steele says Nick Coe came in at 240 and is now 273 but hasn't lost his quickness— Jason Caldwell (@ITATJason) August 1, 2017
Steele said Auburn has a plan to have redshirt freshman Nick Coe will rush the passer from multiple spots on defense.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
And Steele’s even looking ahead to the opener against Georgia Southern.
"There's no doubt" preparing for the Georgia Southern triple option is a challenge for Auburn's defense, Steele said.— Josh Vitale (@AUBlog) August 1, 2017
Kevin Steele on Ga Southern triple option in opener: "It's a challenge." At Nebraska, practiced wishbone every Mon to get ready for Oklahoma— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) August 1, 2017
The benefit to playing Georgia Southern in Week 1 is that Auburn can spend the offseason giving the triple option its due time on the practice field. Yes, Clemson looms the week after, but there’s no surprise at having just a couple of days to work on defending against an unfamiliar offense. Auburn’s pretty familiar with Clemson already, and we know what Georgia Southern’s capable of doing against SEC teams (see the Georgia game a couple years ago).
Of course, playing against a team that cut blocks like triple option teams are wont to do can be dangerous, especially if you’ve got a big game on the horizon like Auburn does with Clemson. The Tigers won’t have any rest time should be a tweaked ankle or knee because of a low block. In this situation, luck will have to play into it a bit, but Auburn can’t afford to play too carefully against a team that can make you pay and bleed the clock. I’m saying things that Kevin Steele already knows and has known for years and years, so this is really for nobody’s benefit but my own.
Stick around for practice tomorrow -- there will be another media viewing session, so we’ll have some good video for you. We’ll also get to hear from Chip Lindsey for the first time this fall, but we won’t hear from anyone until Saturday when the team gets its first look in full pads.