Auburn hired Marcus Woodson away from Memphis to be the newly-legal tenth assistant coach earlier this week, and his presence should help the Tigers out in an area where they absolutely need some help.
The Tigers (orange and blue version), only grabbed six interceptions this season. SIX. Not even one every two games we played. Our defense was very, very good for the most part, but the missing link was pretty evident.
Okay, not the turnover chain itself, but what you had to do to be able to don the chain.
We didn’t turn teams over! We couldn’t do it! The six interceptions are pretty bad, and thankfully our team forced a fair amount of fumble (14), and recovered most of the ones that did hit the ground (13), but when the ball was in the air, we weren’t going to go and get it.
Our six interceptions came in only four games as well. In those four games (GSU, Missouri, Mississippi State, and ULM), Auburn was 4-0, and the average margin of victory was 34.5 points. It’s not like they came in clutch situations. In fact, in our four losses, we averaged only one forced turnover per game, with none of those coming by way of a pick.
Enter Marcus Woodson.
At Memphis this season, the Tigers picked off 16 passes. That’s almost three times what we did. In 2016, Woodson’s first year coaching the DBs, Memphis nabbed another 16 interceptions. In his two seasons at Fresno State before heading to Memphis, the Bulldogs combined for 18 picks. You can even go back through his days at Charleston Southern and Millsaps, when he coached a number of all-conference players and constructed pass defenses that ranked among the best in the country.
You’ve got to go back to 2014 at Auburn to find a defense that was good at plucking the ball out of the air. Of course, that team essentially fielded a group of drum majors in the back end, getting torched by Mississippi State, South Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Alabama down the stretch. They were either allowing a touchdown or picking the ball off.
I am a bit concerned that Woodson’s Memphis defenses this year and last have trended toward similar characteristics, but playing in a pass-happy league like the American, and having less talent than he will at Auburn, maybe that won’t be the case. Memphis allowed 300 or more passing yards seven times this season, but those were either against great quarterbacks (Josh Rosen and McKenzie Milton), or in games where Memphis led by a bunch and the other teams were trying to come back. Without watching the game film, it’s difficult to know if the Tigers were playing off coverage and allowing the short passes or if they truly were outmatched in the passing game.
Either way, with Greg Brown assisting, I feel confident that we can combine the best of both coaches and have a defense that continues to limit the passing yardage like they did this season, while accruing a few more turnovers in the back end. Welcome to the Plains, Coach Woodson! War Eagle!