The expectations for Auburn’s defensive coordinator Will Muschamp are high. He returns to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time since 2006-07, as a part of the Tigers’ staff.
Auburn returns much experience in the secondary for Muschamp to work with, however, its has been inconsistent in recent seasons. Tigers’ head coach Gus Malzahn said Muschamp is the best defensive mind in all of football, not just college football.
“Our defensive players have taken on his [Muschamp] personality, which I really like,” Malzahn said. “He just has that presence around him that he gives all the coaches confidence. He gives the players confidence. And he’s got the IT factor. We are blessed to have him.”
Auburn surrendered 26.7 points per game last season, and opponents’ averaged 4.45 yards per carry rushing. Its secondary gave up 2,991 passing yards on a 57.7 percent completion rating. Much of this had to do with the absence of junior defensive end Carl Lawson.
“If you really look at the big picture last year, we got off to a good start, and about halfway through the season we started hitting some bumps,” Malzahn said. “We had trouble putting pressure on the quarterback. To have a chance to be a good defense, you’ve got to be able to pressure the quarterback with just rushing four. And not having Carl really hurt us last year.”
Defensive backs Jonathan Jones, Johnathan Ford and Joshua Holsey will be the three-headed monster in Auburn’s secondary.
Jones, a senior, put in 36 tackles last season and tied for the team lead in interceptions with six. He said Auburn’s goal this fall is to not give up any completions.
“That’s a big part of it,” Jones said. “Our first job is to make sure they don’t complete the ball, and I definitely want to improve on that and not take a step backwards.”
Muschamp, like his counterpart John Chavis (Texas A&M), loves to bring pressure.
This leaves cornerbacks on a island with no help more times than not. Effort and patience are two things that Jones said Muschamp expects from this secondary in 2015.
” A lot of guys will panic when a deep ball is in the air and the guys who don’t panic are the ones who make the plays, so it’s about being patient and not panicking,” Jones said.
Auburn returns two seniors at linebacker, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost.
Frost totaled 87 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception in 13 games last season. He said the biggest difference having Muschamp at defensive coordinator is intensity.
“It’s a different atmosphere at practice,” Frost said. “As far as our defense is concerned, we are all excited. We feel like we have a new breath of life in us. Everything is so positive.”
Malzahn said Muschamp is the best defensive mind in college football.
The theory will be tested in a tough SEC West Division this fall.