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Steele: Aggies Will Be a Monumental Challenge

Auburn Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele (Photo: Auburn Athletics)

Auburn Football is putting the finishing touches on their game plan for their conference opener on Saturday against Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele met with the media on Wednesday, for the last taste that the media would get of the staff prior to Saturday, and he provided key information when it comes to what Auburn needs to do defensively to stop a versatile Texas A&M offense.

Steele opened by saying that he feels that the defense continues building from week to week, but says that tackling, especially late in the game with the younger players was not as crisp as he would like for it to be, but the majority of the execution of plays resembled an “Auburn Tiger” defense.

Moving on to this week, Steele says that Texas A&M is a “monumental challenge” to his team, because the Aggies are an SEC opponent, they have a great quarterback in Trevor Knight, great skill players, and a massive offensive line.

On the Aggies offense with Trevor Knight:

Trevor Knight is a graduate transfer quarterback, who takes over the A&M offense following his undergraduate career at Oklahoma. One of his notable games while with the Sooners, was his four touchdown performance against Alabama in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, in which he threw for 348 yards in the Sooners’ win. So Knight is accustomed to playing well in big time games against SEC teams. What has Steele seen out of the Aggies? “They are what we call an “RPO team” (run, pass, option). They will give a play action fake, and will have routes on one side, and screens on the other. You gotta execute to the right, and to the left, and be sound in the middle.” Speaking of the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Kevin Steele was the Director of Player Personnel at Alabama during that season, and faced Knight. “He (Knight) looks good, but that night… he looked good, too.”

On Texas A&M’s receivers:

Texas A&M has posted 634 passing yards in two games, averaging 12 yards per catch. Veterans Christian Kirk, Josh Reynolds, and Ricky Seals-Jones have reeled in a majority of those yards. Some regard the wide receiver unit at Texas A&M to be one of the best in the nation. “They are a very impressive group. I don’t know how you could put together four or five guys that would present any more problems than they do.” Steele says that these receivers are “built like a basketball team”, because they each bring something different to the table.

Aggie Running Backs:

Rushing wise, Running back Keith Ford leads the way with 127 total yards, and three touchdowns. Steele describes them as a downhill-running, speed unit.

On Freshman Derrick Brown:

Brown has two total tackles through two games, and has a fumble recovery on the Auburn defensive line. “Derrick is a very talented young man. He is so emotionally mature, physically and mentally mature. That’s the trifecta, that’s rare as a freshman, to have all three of those. He’s a very gifted young man.”

On the defensive line rotation:

Steele has been impressed with how well the defensive line has been able to rotate, which has kept them fresh. “Rodney (Garner) has a pretty good rotation going there, and there’s no real set thing to it. They’re all (defensive linemen) becoming about equal. They can go out at anytime, and they go early. It’s not really first, second, and third.. It’s next man up.”

On Marshall Taylor getting meaningful reps:

Marshall Taylor got meaningful playing time late in the Arkansas State game, where he recorded a pass breakup. Steele says that the Miami (OH) transfer has picked up the defense very well. Steele says that he hopes that he can keep the corners fresh, just like the defensive line. “He’s (Taylor) got good ball skills, he’s long. It’s hard to get off press coverage with him. He runs good.”

On Carl Lawson:

Carl Lawson, when healthy, is a threat to an offense. He is one of those players that offensive coordinators have to build their game plan around. Steele says the reason for that, is that he is obsessive compulsive about football. “He’s harder on himself than any of us could ever be. He thinks that if they throw it ten times, than he ought to have six sacks. That’s a good thing.” Lawson has only recorded 4 tackles this season, but Steele reassured the media that his numbers will come.

On Stephen Roberts’ return against Arkansas State:

Defensive back Stephen Roberts served his one game suspension against Clemson two weeks ago, and returned for his first game of the season against Arkansas State. Steele says that he agrees with a statement that Defensive Backs coach Wesley McGriff said about Roberts having a tremendous first game. “I thought Stephen brought an energy level to it, and tried to do his job. He’s a physical guy, he tries to tackle. His coverage skill sets are higher than what most people think.”

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