Ellis Johnson Discusses Auburn Injuries, Depth Chart


Oct 5, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson before the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Mississippi Rebels at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The hits keep coming. As the fall camp portion of practice winds down, and preparation for Arkansas gears up, the injury bug has once again bitten the Auburn Tigers.

Earlier today, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson met with the media to discuss a few things. Unfortunately for Tigers fans that discussion centered on the injuries that have recently hit the Auburn defensive backfield.

The injury that appears to be the biggest concern at this point belongs to Robensen Therezie. Though details were not given as to what exactly is ailing the team’s starting Star – whatever it is could keep Therezie out of the August 30 season opener against Arkansas.

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“Therezie right now, we’re not sure he’s going to be able to play early,” Johnson said.

Johnson mentioned that Therezie has missed a lot of practice recently and “just hasn’t had a lot of reps.” If the senior can’t play against Arkansas, Justin Garrett will be the starter at Star. After Garrett, though, the depth chart is unclear.

“We’re a little nervous about our depth behind Justin,” Johnson continued. “… The rest of (the Stars) are freshmen. We actually took a look at TJ (Davis) this morning and let him play a little bit of it. But a game like Arkansas, that guy is going to end up on the box a lot, so I’ll have a linebacker that can play that spot also to back up Justin.”

If the opponent utilizes more spread formations, Johnson would be more apt to use a defensive back at the Star position.

And Star isn’t the only position that concerns Johnson. He shared his disappointment with the most recent scrimmage, and how he felt that there were several areas on the depth chart – particularly among the primary backups – that need to be sorted out.

“The scrimmage was mainly (the second team,)” Johnson said. “It was some guys that are fighting, competing for starting jobs. Some guys are competing to get in that two-deep. I didn’t think we made a lot of progress in that area… I think our two-deep is still a little bit murky. Hopefully we’ll have some more contact stuff and those will clear up.”

Sep 21, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Johnathan Ford (23) against the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Auburn 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When asked who would be the team’s best reserve linebacker, Johnson could not offer an answer. “Right now it would not be a clear cut who is the third linebacker,” he said. Johnson did mention that Tre’ Williams, the five-star true freshman “did enough that I got to keep him battling for the two-deep.”

Speaking of the two-deep, at least one player may have put himself higher in the pecking order. Since Derrick Moncrief arrived on campus, he has been expected to be the starting boundary safety. However, Johnson mentioned, Rudy Ford should be considered the starter today. Moncrief has also missed some time with illness and injury, which may have allowed Ford to capitalize on the extra reps he received.

The defensive coordinator went on to share his thoughts on some of the other position battles in the secondary.

Joshua Holsey had been reported to be having a very good camp, and even appeared to be a lock to start at corner. However, he has been limited in practice due to doctor’s orders, and he may have lost some ground as a result. Mincy is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season.

“We feel like right now the that the two best corners are (Jonathon) Mincy and (Jonathan) Jones,” Johnson said.

That declaration is news to many Tigers fans that believed that Trovon Reed was the most likely candidate to push for a starting spot opposite Mincy. Johnson said that Reed and Jones are practicing at field corner, and Mincy has been getting reps at the boundary cornerback position. Of course, Mincy has been banged up a bit as well, and is dealing with a shoulder injury.

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  • Along the defensive line, the two junior college transfers expected to contribute this season have both been dealing with minor injuries as well. DaVonte Lambert had been reportedly moving up the depth chart recently and was believed to be challenging for a starting role, but Johnson noted he has fighting through back spasms. Fellow newcomer Devaroe Lawrence is dealing with a knee injury.

    “The frustrating thing,” Johnson said, “is we can’t get Devaroe and DaVonte out there for three or four days in a row. They’ve been really hampered with nagging injuries. … Nothing really serious, but again, for two new players, missing a couple or three days of practice can really set them back.”

    The team has spent a little bit of time preparing for the Razorbacks, but Johnson said that the Tigers will turn their full attention to the game plan next week. There are now 16 days until the season opener. Hopefully, some of the players Johnson mentioned can rest and heal between now and then.