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Auburn Defense Sets Sights on Diverse Georgia Offense

Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele (Photo: Auburn Athletics)

Georgia week is officially here. After a weekend where a few top teams lost, Auburn football is now in a situation where they control their destiny. The Iron Bowl will definitely be an attractive game to many college football fans, but Auburn must first come out of a tough venue in Sanford Stadium with a victory.

Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele began the week by speaking with the media on Sunday night. He gave his thoughts about the win over Vanderbilt as well as previewed “The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” with Georgia upcoming.

Steele opened by saying that not only does his team want to win every Saturday, but he wants to improve, and correct mistakes as the season goes on as well. He says that the nature of college football forces teams to add another item to the list of issues that need to be corrected as soon as one item is marked off the list, due to each team planning for a specific game every week. Steele says that the defense did a great job, but there were some “moving parts” that Vanderbilt showed on Saturday, that was not in the game film that he and his players studied in their preparation. Another issue that concerned Steele in the Vanderbilt game, was the health of linebacker Tre Williams, and he not being able to play. “We have a quarterback, too.” Steele said of Williams, and his role on the defense. Not only was Williams not able to go on Saturday, another linebacker found himself in a tough situation during the game. Deshaun Davis was ejected for targeting in the first quarter. “When the top two quarterbacks are out of the game, everybody is having a stroke. But no one ever thinks that when two linebackers are out of the game, that might be an issue.”

On Darrell Williams:

Linebacker Darrell Williams played a variety of positions on Sunday during the game with Vanderbilt. Steele was pleased with his efforts of standing up when needed. “That is the first time that has happened to him, and he grew up.”

On the targeting call that resulted in Deshaun Davis’ ejection:

During the first quarter of the game against Vanderbilt, it was ruled that Deshaun Davis’s hit on Commodore wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb was classified a targeting. Davis led with his helmet during the tackle, and made contact with the crown of his helmet. Steele did not have an opinion on the ruling, but provided his thoughts on how to prevent being called for the penalty. “First, you gotta keep your eyes up. Second, you gotta know how they call it, and you have to avoid how they call it.” He says that tackling has changed now from the 1980’s, so he has spent a lot of time teaching players at Auburn, and other schools, how to tackle. For the safety of the game.

On TJ Neal:

In Davis’ absence, graduate transfer TJ Neal stepped in and recorded 9 total tackles in the game, which was the first time that he got meaningful playing time this season. Steele says that Neal has progressed, and did a great job filling in for Davis in the game.

On 3rd down conversions:

Vanderbilt was 7 of 16 on third down conversions on Saturday, a majority of those coming in the first half. Steele comments on the adjustments that were made, and the stat as a whole. “We have to do a better job of doing it early,” Steele said of limiting the opposing offense on third down. He mentions that the coverage was not the same on each conversion, so technique will need to improve, as well as play more tight coverage.

On Kirby Smart:

Moving on to Georgia, Steele discussed his relationship with Georgia Head Football Coach Kirby Smart. Steele has worked with Smart on a few occasions, beginning when Smart was a graduate assistant at Florida State, and moving on through their times at Alabama. Steele has respect for Smart, calling him intelligent. “He understands football at a high, high level. He is a good teacher, a good recruiter, he is the whole package.”

On the Georgia offense:

“First of all, it’s the SEC. They are a really good and talented football team.” That was the first thought that Steele had when talking about Georgia as a team. Jacob Eason is the first player on the Georgia offense that comes to Steele’s mind. “They have a quarterback that can throw it from here to LaGrange.” He also talked about the combination of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel at the running back position, and how their nicknames of “thunder and lightning” are not bluffed. He describes the Georgia offense as a team that spreads the ball around to their diverse group of receivers. In that group, is true freshman Isaac Nauta. “He is a very good route runner, he has good hands, he positions himself as a freshman very good for the ball.”

On Tray Matthews returning to Georgia:

Safety Tray Matthews will make his first trip back to the University where he career began on Saturday. Earlier this season, Steele faced the team he coached last season, LSU. Steele gives his thoughts on if this will be a distraction, or what he will say if Matthews asks for advice. “ It’s good reading for the week, it’s probably fun to talk about with your family, but after the first play, it has no effect on anything.” Steele says that he has no plans to talk with Matthews about it, because he feels that Matthews is mature enough to handle the situation.

On Ole Miss Quarterback Chad Kelly:

Sunday, it was announced that Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly will miss the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL and meniscus. Steele provided kind words when asked about Kelly. “He is the perfect competitor, he affects the whole disposition of the team. That is kind of what I saw in him, he affected that whole football team with his mental toughness, his tenacity, and how competitive he was.” Steele says that he feels that Kelly will bounce back, and will play football again very soon.

Auburn travels to Georgia this Saturday, kickoff is schedule for 2:30 P.M.

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