Auburn Overcomes Obstacles, Steele Pleased
Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele (Photo: Auburn Athletics)
Auburn’s defense continues to improve with each passing week. Last week against Mississippi State, the Tigers only allowed 289 total yards and held dual-threat quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to 242 all-purpose yards (181 passing, 61 rushing). Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele talked about the team’s performance last Saturday’s win, as well as discussed what this week holds, as Auburn heads into a bye week. Steele started by saying that if you are playing a SEC team, it is hard to win. It’s even tougher when you have to face a SEC team on the road. He said that the main focus during last week’s practice was getting prepared to go on the road for the first time this season, as well as adjusting to playing at 11 A.M. “It doesn’t matter who we play, what time we play, or who we play… we play.” That was the message to his defense last week in preparing for the Mississippi State game. With Auburn’s defense shutting out Mississippi State in the first half, Steele feels that the players bought into that message, and he was pleased with their effort. Specifically, he mentioned pass breakups, creating turnovers, and lineman Montravius Adams’ fumble recovery, which led to a touchdown. Of course, there are some issues that Steele feels like the defense could work on, including a few missed tackles, and miscommunication as far as lining up are concerned. So far this week, Steele says that he and the other coaches are already preparing for the Arkansas game in two weeks, but have not started preparing with the players yet. On the First Drive: Neither Auburn or Mississippi State could score on their first drive, but it was a missed field goal on the Bulldogs first drive that gave Auburn momentum. Steele was pleased with the missed field goal because it gave Auburn the opportunity to score first on the road. “If you go on the road, and you’re down by 7, you are behind the 8-ball. If you go down by 3, there is still momentum there.” On the pass rush: When asked about pass rushing, Steele says that the sacks will come. He is more concerned with how much the defense affects the quarterback’s play. He then provided a stat that tells the story of how well Auburn’s defense played on Saturday. “They (Mississippi State) called 41 pass plays, and on 20 of those plays, we affect the quarterback.” Steele says that they pestered Fitzgerald by either sacking him, making him throw an interception, making him scramble, or by breaking up a pass. Steele mentioned that it was the third game in a row, in which the defense affected the opposing quarterback's intentions 50% of the time or more. Marlon Davidson: A Freshman from Greenville, Marlon Davidson, has impressed many college football fans this season. Last week against Mississippi State, he finished with 5 total tackles. One of those tackles was a sack for 8 yards, and he also forced a fumble. “He is very intelligent. He is mentally mature, and he is physically mature. But the biggest thing is, is that he is mentally mature,” said Steele, on what impresses him most about Davidson. “It’s like he has been around here for three years. The guy plays relentless. There were several plays in that game (against Mississippi State) that he made from a defensive end position on a screenplay to the sideline, in which he made the tackle for a two-yard gain. He plays with a great motor.” What do defensive players need to improve on? With this being a bye-week. Steele wants to focus on making Auburn better. He said on Tuesday, that he has handed a list to every player, that includes two areas that he would like to see them improve. Steele wants to take a “baby step” approach, in order to not overwhelm them. “We have more, but let's take care of two.” He says that recent success has made the players want to succeed even more. How does Steele see the defense six weeks into the season? It is hard to believe that the season is halfway over, but, it is nice to see that Auburn seems to be improving week-to-week. Where does Steele see this team this far into the season? “In the open date, we do a self-scout of ourselves.” Steele said, “we also do a statistical average of where everything is in all key categories.” What are some of the areas that stick out to Steele? “We are not where we want to be in rush defense, but yet we are seeing improvement.It does give us some indication that we are making progress.” Auburn will have this Saturday off. Next week, they will welcome in the Arkansas Razorbacks to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 P.M.