Auburn Has Always Been Known for Tough Defenses

By Posted on: November 6th, 2013 in Featured Article, Football 9 Comments »
13705089-mmmain - Gabe Wright & Carl Lawson

Trailing Auburn 14-3 in the second quarter, Arkansas drove 73 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the Auburn four-yard line. Then running back Jonathan Williams was stopped on consecutive third and fourth down plays. Met at the line both times by Auburn linebacker JaViere Mitchel, the Auburn freshman drove the runner back for a yard loss on his second attempt. The Razorbacks had taken over eight minutes off the clock, and yet came away with no points. The stand help preserve Auburn’s 11 point lead going into the half.

Those plays personify the Auburn Defense in 2013. Time after time, the defense has given up chunks of yards only to slam the door on opponents in side the red zone. The Tigers are ranked No.8 in the country in red zone defense. A fact that is both a source of pride and frustration to the fans. Frustration because it smacks of a bend don’t break style of defense.

Many fans took to the message boards to lament what they saw last Saturday as a defensive regression. From one standpoint, it would be easy to say the Auburn D took a step back. However, the facts are that the Tigers have been playing with a patchwork defense all season. Key players are out for the year and a lot of the regulars were playing banged up. Added to that is the fact that Arkansas had two weeks to prepare. In addition Coach Bielema admitted last week he had this game circled since he arrived on campus. The Hogs actually had started preparing for the Tigers in spring camp.

However, while all those points should be factored into why the Tiger D had a less than stout performance, there is another reason Auburn gave up big chunks of yardage between the twenties.

Most of the teams the Tigers have faced up to now have been based on 3-4 wide receivers with a mobile style quarterback. Arkansas’ running game involves 2-3 tight ends with a “pro style” attack which creates gaps for the running game. Something that the Tigers haven’t seen since facing LSU – a game that also gave the Tigers problems.

That type offense is noted for creating gaps in the defense. A team has to fill gaps just right or good running backs (like we saw in LSU’s Jeremy Hill) can turn those small gaps or creases into big plays. Also when linebackers come up to fill the gaps, the defense is vulnerable to passes over the middle. Auburn Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson said a defense playing a “pro style”- tight end attack has,” Got to be really gap-sound… When you’re overplaying that, sometimes (an offense) can get a crease up inside.”

Still maybe the Tigers were not as focused, maybe they had somewhat of a let down, and then again maybe there was some confusion facing a different style offense. If the latter is the case, then it was a good thing Auburn has this game to work on getting ready for the rest of Amen Corner. Because the Tigers will be facing traditional style offenses in it’s last three games including No.1 Alabama.

In the euphoria of the Tigers rebound season, we fans need to remember that when Ellis Johnson took over as Auburn’s Defensive Coordinator, he inherited a unit that was one of the worst in the SEC. A year after ranking 13th in total defense and near the bottom in every major defensive category, the Auburn’s D has made a remarkable turn around.

This season the Tigers are third in the SEC in scoring defense, with 10 interceptions, 21 sacks and five fumble recoveries. Their red zone defense is ranked second in the conference, and they have only given up one touchdown in the fourth quarter all year. In addition the Tiger D is ranked 23rd nationally in rushing yards, allowing only 3 yards per carry.

The biggest disappointment of last season for this writer was not a 3-9 record or the failure to mount any type of offense. No the biggest disappointment was the complete lack of a defense.

That was the hardest thing to watch. Seeing lopsided losses mount was difficult but perhaps the lack of the hard nose, hard hitting defense that has always been a hallmark of Auburn Football was the hardest thing to take.

Since the arrival of Johnson, Garner and the rest of the staff, the old hard hitting Auburn style attitude is back. That’s been evident by plays like Carl Lawson’s sack of Qb Bo Wallace at the end of the Ole Miss game or Johnny Manziel being sacked twice at the end of the A&M game or when Jonathan Williams was stuffed twice Saturday with two big goal line hits by JaViere Mitchel.

Bone crushing, jaw rattling, hits have returned. Auburn may not have always won every game in every season but when teams played the Tigers they knew they had been in a war. Yes Auburn used to be known for tough defenses. Now this team is bringing that mantra back.

War Eagle!

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  1. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    “This season the Tigers are third in the SEC in scoring defense, with 10 interceptions, 21 sacks and five fumble recoveries. Their red zone defense is ranked second in the conference, and they have only given up one touchdown in the fourth quarter all year. In addition the Tiger D is ranked 23rd nationally in rushing yards, allowing only 3 yards per carry.”

    ^ Great paragraph.

    “…they have only given up one touchdown in the fourth quarter all year.” Opposition beware. Get your points early or don’t get them at all.

    This defense is making a significant contribution to our success this year. The same players who were unable to catch a cold last year are keeping other teams out of the end zone this year. And we’re banged up, especially in the secondary. And we’re playing true freshmen. Just think how good they would be at full strength.

    Terrific article. Thanks for giving the defense some much needed recognition.

  2. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    The tiger defense has definitely grown its claws back this year. I only wish we had a headhunting LB like the ones we have had in the past. We haven’t had a star “QB of the defense” in several years. I want a guy in the middle that when the QB looks in his eyes he thinks, “Oh crap, I hope someone blocks him this time”

    • War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

      Josh Bines was a good LB. We need one of our current guy’s to man up like he did.

    • AUJTJarhead AUJTJarhead says:

      Good comment on the Linebackers. A good linebacker does indeed intimidate a QB. We need a couple of “brass pair” LB’s roaming and frothing at the mouth.

      • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

        Last guy we had like that was Tray Blackmon…”the little ball of hate”. He was intense and delivered brutal hits…..but he was also was undisciplined and…shall we say, not a thinking mans LB.
        I think McKinzy has that potential to be an intimidator. He has done a fine job on stopping the run. Frost will be very good next year, but I see him as a more of a Josh Bynes type of guy….which is good in my book.

        Carl Lawson will be the defensive intimidator for the next couple of years. He and Adams will definitely be a force going into the bowl game until they leave for the NFL. All they are lacking is reps and an off season of pounding packing nutrition, strength and conditioning.

  3. mikeautiger says:

    Great article. One of the things I have always been proud of is knowing that no matter who we were going to play they knew we were going to bring them a battle, they had respect. I really missed that last year. It’s good to have other fans talking about that fact this year that the opponents fans are saying they know AU is going to bring their game. This is Auburn!

  4. DothanTiger DothanTiger says:

    Good article. I can’t believe the hand wringing by some last week. Auburn went into a hostile stadium and won by 18. Did the defense look poor at times? …. yes But they are a young bunch and they have over achieved so far. It’s an awesome group, can’t wait to see how they will be in next couple of years.

    • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

      I think what got people wound up, including myself, is that we saw a lot of the poor fundamentals that were the hallmark of Ted Roof’s defenses…..and we thought that we were past that.
      That and the fact that Arky scored a total of 7 points in their last two games, but did very well against TAMU, who is the SEC equivalent of warm butter. To our horror Auburn looked more like TAMU than Bama….which doesn’t portend well for us when UGA and Bama come to town.

      That being said, I think most of us understand that one game does not a trend make. What most of us want to see is improvement and good sound fundamentals, which should be evident regardless of how young the players are.

      • Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

        YYEESSSS. When I saw diving tackles at feet and whiffed tackles in air…as if the very act of touching the other player would stop him in his tracks, I lost it. I mean completely, yelling and jumping at the tv, lost it. It wasn’t pretty. Thanks goodness all ToTM offspring were nestled all snugly in their beds.

        That style of play took me back to the dark dark place of Roof ball. Only to be seconded by porn-stache ball. None of it good. All of it troubling.

        However, after a few days of, er, reflection, I can see how Saturday in Fayetteville was an aberration and, likely, Hex-affect defense. I hope that practice is better this week and on Saturday at 11 am (3 days, 17 hours and 5 minutes until game time, I’m just sayin’), these boys are ready to rock and roll. I want the Vols to suffer at least through one more game this season…..