Auburn Football: “Every Job Wide Open” on Defense


The Auburn football team wrapped up the first portion of spring practice for Spring Break. With ten practices to go, “every job is wide open” on defense.

Following the fifth practice of the spring Thursday, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn and a handful of Tigers met with the media before taking an 11-day break from the field. Malzahn and his coaching staff have emphasized physicality with “old school” practices designed for the team to get its edge back following a disappointing second half of the 2014 season.

“We are doing the halfline, doing the inside, doing team against the defense,” Malzahn told reporters. “We’re getting after it. We are going old school trying to get our edge back. I think they’ve gotten better each practice. Overall, I feel good about where we are.”

Jan 3, 2014; Irvine, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers coach Gus Malzahn at practice for the 2014 BCS National Championship at UC Irvine. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to getting their edge back, the most obvious goal the Tigers have this spring is installing a new defense in order building a foundation to turn around a unit that has received much of the blame for last season’s poor finish.

Under former defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, the Auburn defense allowed 31 points or more to six straight FBS opponents (and a seventh in the Outback Bowl after Johnson was fired). Auburn allowed at least 412 total yards in each of those games and has allowed more than 450 yards to six of their last seven FBS opponents.

Will Muschamp was hired to orchestrate the turnaround. Through five practices, Malzahn’s new defensive coordinator and two new defensive position coaches have had their first chance to evaluate players on the practice field, seeing where the players fit best in the new scheme. Muschamp has been hard at work installing his new defense with trademark intensity, which the players appear to appreciate.

“I think it’s better because of different coaching styles,” rising junior defensive tackle Montravious Adams said. “Coach Johnson was pretty laid back. Muschamp is intense. He focuses on everybody. I think that will change the defense, just him alone being here.”

RELATED: The Best Defenses Will Muschamp Has Ever Coached

The intensity is also high because despite returning six starters from last season’s defense, there is a great deal of competition for starting roles and playing time already.

“Guys are doing all they can to compete for jobs because every job is open right now,” senior linebacker Kris Frost said. “The urgency to know what you’re supposed to do, know your responsibility, is really high.”

Of course, some jobs are a little more wide open than others. Among the most fierce defensive position battles are at defensive tackle, where redshirt freshman Dontavious Russell is the early favorite to start alongside Adams.

Muschamp is also looking for a third linebacker in his 4-3 system to start alongside Frost and fellow returning starter Casanova McKinzy. Justin Garrett and Tre’ Williams are likely to continue to compete through the fall for the job.

Cornerback is a much murkier area of concern as Muschamp and new defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson look for a player to emerge as a starter alongside 2014 All-SEC second team performer Jonathan Jones. Right now, Joshua Holsey has the inside track, but T.J. Davis is a player to watch.

Malzahn also told reporters he and the rest of the coaching staff are looking for new leaders to emerge this spring.

“We’ve got some guys that want to be leaders but right now they’re trying to really earn the trust of their coaches, their teammates,” Malzahn said. “When you strain guys, usually the leaders rise to the top and that’s one of our goals to get down with spring ball and have some established leaders. But it’s a process. It’s something that has to be consistent. A leader has to do it every day. We’re in the process of figuring all those things out.”

The next Auburn football practice will be Tuesday March 31 at 3:30 PM. The Tigers will practice eight more times until A-Day on April 18, and once more after the spring game.

Watch Gus Malzahn discuss spring practice, via

Next: Five Redshirt Freshmen Ready to Contribute

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