AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s quarterback situation remains unresolved and competition continues at other spots on the offense. But Kevin Steele’s defense? It looks solid.
Some of the elements have been clear from the beginning. Junior lineman Carl Lawson and senior Montravius Adams continue dominating the line of scrimmage. Defensive back Tray Matthews played with two torn labrums last season and has stepped forward as a leader of the defense. Linebackers Tre Williams and Illinois transfer T.J. Neal are experienced veterans. Steele likes what he’s seeing from several young players who immediately could contribute.
In the Tigers’ first scrimmage, Steele recognized that the transition from the practice facility to Jordan-Hare Stadium — it can be overwhelming for newcomers — didn’t phase many underclassmen.
“That’s kind of what we’re looking for in those young guys that have not played a whole lot is when they get in those situations, particularly over in the stadium, that it’s not too big for them,” Steele said. “Because we’re teaching them to be mentally and physically mature, making sure we’re physical players and we’re mental players as well. But the other part is the emotional part of it that when I make a mistake, I can play the next play. Putting that all together.”
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Some newcomers have made errors of course, but their response has been encouraging.
“When they have their bad moments, they play the next play with confidence,” Steele said. “They don’t look at the ground, (have) bad body language, those kind of things, and let one mistake be two or three more mistakes because they’re thinking about something they shouldn’t be thinking about. We’re working on that really hard and made some progress with it.”
Potential young starters have emerged within each unit. Jeremiah Dinson is progressing well from the injury he suffered vs. Texas A&M last November. Carlton Davis, an All-SEC freshman selection, looks ready to pick up where he left off a year ago. Transfer DB Jamel Dean also could find himself in the mix. First-year DB Daniel Thomas has impressed early in camp and sophomore LB Darrell Williams, who coaches have moved around during the fall, has flourished at several positions.
The next step for Steele is preparing for what he knows is coming.
“I’ll promise you in the first game, the first 15 plays we will see something that’s out of the coaches’ hands now,” Steele said. “They will have to be a problem-solver. It’s not some card we’ve showed them in practice, it’s not some rep they’ve seen. It’s something new, and they’ve got to apply their principles, apply their trade and be a problem-solver without the coach out there, so we’ve got to get that developed at a rapid speed.”