The Auburn Football Team did something this week that hasn’t been done since the first day of fall camp … have everyone out for practice. Coach Malzahn said yesterday that Tuesday would be, “The first day we’ll actually have our entire team going through practice, which is a very positive thing moving forward.”
However, as encouraging as that is, it doesn’t mean they all will be available at game time. Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson was also quoted as saying, “Just about all of them are doing something. A lot of them have limited contact and are limited to certain types of drills (trainers) don’t want them doing.”
The key word there is “limited.” It’s surely good news to hear they are back on the practice field but the best news will come when they are healthy enough to replace the label “limited” with the label, “ready to go.”
Everyone knows injuries are part of football. They come with the territory. However, the injuries that have plagued Auburn this year have been out of proportion to the norm. Coach Malzahn acknowledge that in particular just a few days after the LSU game. “I don’t think I’ve been around a team that had that many (injuries) this early and to main impact players. Defensively, we’ve been playing without a lot of our impact players, and even when we get them back, they’ve not been quite 100 percent.”
Except for Wide Receiver Jaylon Denson, who was injured in the LSU game, every major injury this season has been to defensive players. At least a dozen defenders have been nursing injuries serious enough to limit their amount of playing time or in some cases completely sideline them.
There has been a lot of talk in the off week about the defense not being consistent – giving up what Johnson refers to as “trash plays.” Those are plays where a defender either misses a tackle or more often misses an assignment and isn’t in the right place to make the play. That’s a problem area that has to be fixed and fixed quickly.
On the other hand, Malzahn’s offense has clearly been able to score points – an improvement in it self over last season’s Loeffler ball. But the defense has been inconsistent, giving up big yardage and points in the first half only to come back in the second and pretty much lock it down.
A probable contributor to the inconsistency has to be the playing of a lot of inexperienced players, particularly freshmen. Hopefully the two weeks off has given coaches time to correct some of those costly mistakes because there will not be any room for error against the remaining SEC schedule. The D can’t keep spotting opponents and hope the offense bails them out. They have to play that shut down intensity in the first quarter like they do in the fourth.
With that being said, the back ups have actually done a decent job. Sure the Tigers have giving up way too may yards (nearly 400 per game) but consider this: Auburn started 3-0, won their first conference game in two years and, despite the prognosticators, was competitive against No. 6 LSU in a night game in Death Valley.
If you had asked most folks at the beginning of the year, if Auburn would fare that well in the first third of the season, you probably wouldn’t have had many takers.
Before the season began, this fan was looking for four things: 1. Competitiveness 2. Toughness 3. Finishing out or not quitting in the second half. (and) 4. A winning season. Well after 4 games, 75 percent of my expectations have been met and I believe the Tigers are on track to finish with that winning record.
That’s not to say I don’t want more, but following last year’s debacle, the installation of a new defense, finding a new quarterback, and dealing with all the injuries … you’ve got to be pleased with these Tigers progress – I know I am.
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