Auburn Football: How Good Can the Tigers Defense Be in 2015 Under Will Muschamp?


In case you’ve been living under a rock since the Iron Bowl, the Auburn football team has hired a new defensive coordinator: Will Mushcamp.

How good can the Tigers be on defense in 2015 under Muschamp’s direction? The expectations are already very high.

“If you look at his track record,” head coach Gus Malzahn said recently, “wherever he’s been he’s had a top defense. He’ll have a chance to evaluate our guys. He has high expectations just like I do. We expect to win and expect to win championships. I’m looking forward to coaching with him.”

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Despite being fired as the head coach of the Florida Gators, Muschamp has a terrific track record as a defensive mind, motivator and recruiter. In ten of the last 12 seasons he has been a head coach or defensive coordinator, his teams have ranked in the nation’s top ten in total defense.

Yet, Muschamp inherits a defensive unit that allowed 388.7 yards per game this season, which ranks ninth in the SEC and 61st nationally, and allowed 26.1 points per game, which ranks tenth and 61st, respectively.

Interestingly enough, however, those numbers are some of the best the Tigers have had since the 2010 national championship season. As far as total defense goes, the 388-yard average is the best by nearly 20 yards since the Tigers won the BCS title. In terms of scoring defense, only last season’s 24.7 points per game average was better than the 2014 performance.

Of course, Auburn didn’t even have a very good defense in 2010. The Tigers allowed 368.4 yards per game and 24.1 points on average the year they won the national title. Those figures ranked ninth and eighth in the league, respectively, and 60th and 53rd nationally. Compared to other national champions in the last eight years, no other team ranked outside the nation’s top ten in total defense.

And that seems to be the magic number.

“We can definitely be a top ten defense,” safety Rudy Ford said last week. “We’re going to be very great coming into our future and everything. We’re going to be very great. We’re going to be one of the toughest defenses to play.”

Nov 1, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp reacts on the sidelines against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at EverBank Field. Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 38-20. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Auburn football team had a top ten defense? 2007. The defensive coordinator then? Will Muschamp.

But is it realistic to expect such a big turnaround in Muschamp’s first year back?

In addition to their poor standing in scoring and total defense, the Tigers allowed 149.1 rushing yards per game in the 2014 regular season, which ranks eighth in the SEC, and the pass defense was the second worst in the league with a 239.2 yards per game average. Overall, the Auburn defense allowed 5.6 yards per play.

The Tigers struggled most in the second half of the season, and allowed 31 points or more in each of their last six conference games for the first time in school history, including a 55-44 loss to Alabama that sealed Ellis Johnson’s fate as defensive coordinator.

Now, it’s up to Muschamp to replace four senior starters and perhaps a junior or two (linebackers Casanova McKinzy and Kris Frost are considering a jump to the NFL), install a new multiple 4-3 scheme to replace Johnson’s 4-2-5 base and to recruit blue chip talent to either step in and play immediately or provide depth.

He’s already watching, evaluating and planning for the future.

“It’s been intense,” cornerback Jonathan Jones said about Outback Bowl practices on campus. “The energy’s been up. You know he’s watching. For a lot of guys coming back next year, it’s kind of a different level because he’s looking for next year too.”

Because the expectations for next year are higher than ever. With Muschamp on board, championships and top ten defenses are expected.

Next: Is 5-Star DE CeCe Jefferson Considering a Visit to Auburn?

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