MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Kevin Steele kept it simple and Auburn’s defense responded with several strong performances in the spring.
“The focus wasn’t on the spring game obviously,” Auburn’s first-year defensive coordinator said. “We get no points for winning the spring game, but what we wanted to try to accomplish in the spring — and you heard us talk about this before — is relentless effort, pursuit to the ball and to create a dominating attitude with just effort. Then we wanted to be better tacklers, then we follow that with technique and then schematically what we were doing. The primary thing was to make as much progress as we could on the effort end of it and I think when you watch the video you see a group of guys that really tried to play really, really hard. I thought we tackled in that setting relatively well. There were very, very few missed tackles, so that was encouraging.”
Auburn rotated its first- and second-team units primarily in the firs half and early portions of the second half at the A-Day game inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The defense as a whole allowed the offense to convert only one of 22 third-down attempts.
Offensive players credited it to the defense’s familiarity with the offense’s scheme and the vanilla offense they utilized (quarterback Jeremy Johnson said they used less than 20 percent of the playbook) for the defense’s strong performance. Still, it was no less impressive in Steele’s eyes.
“The threes and fours got to play a good bit in the second half against a No. 1 offense and really I think it was encouraging that we fought hard, we played hard, we tackled well, we had very few mental errors and kept the first spring score relatively low (19-10 is the lowest score of the Gus Malzahn era in a spring game),” Steele said. “And we were effective on third down. Now, it was a very windy day but we play outside in the SEC at every venue until you get to the last one (at the SEC Championship). Hey, I can’t control that, it’s what it is, but it was encouraging.”
Auburn received good news with cornerback Carlton Davis’ hand injury, which kept him out of the spring game. He is not expected to need surgery. Meanwhile, there has been no official update on defensive backs Josh Holsey (knee surgery in September) and Tray Matthews (shoulder surgery in January), but quarterback John Franklin III tweeted earlier this week Holsey was running the 40-yard dash in Auburn’s testing drills at the Auburn Athletic Complex.