AUBURN, Ala. — When Kevin Steele was asked Wednesday night if he had any concerns about his defense coming off a bye week, he made his answer quite clear by using a phrase that he knew would resonate in this election year.
“Concern is not the right word,” Steele said. “I guess if I was running government, yes, I’ve got concerns with this happening and this, but we’re not running government. It’s just a football game. It’s about what we do.”
If Steele was running for public office this year, his campaign slogan would be easy to pick out — “it’s about what we do.”
That’s been the mantra for the first-year Auburn defensive coordinator all season long. The coaching veteran won’t get caught up in the details and differences in the matchups on the Tigers’ schedule. Steele is chiefly focused on making sure his defense does what it’s supposed to do.
“It still comes back to, ‘Hey, get your hat in your gap. Do it with physicality. Do it with technique, and fly your tail to the football,'” Steele said. “That’s what we control.”
So when Arkansas brings a new-look offense that is passing and scoring at a higher rate than it has in recent years to Auburn this Saturday (6 p.m. ET on ESPN), Steele’s defense will be prepared. Auburn’s defensive leaders know that if they do their job, the results should continue to work out in their favor.
“We’re going to base it on us,” junior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “If we fit right, if we have everything that we’re supposed to do, we’re going to be fine no matter what they do.”
Steele isn’t concerned with rust as Auburn comes out of a bye week. In fact, he looked at the break as a positive for his defense, which needed the rest after six straight grueling games.
“Obviously it gave us a time to get some guys healed up that were not serious injuries,” Steele said. “(The issues) were some things that were nagging with some of the older guys and the guys who were seeing a substantial amount of playing time. It got them fresh and healed up a little bit.”
The bye week also gave Auburn a time to fully focus on improving its own performances by building depth with younger players and working on technique without worrying about an opponent.
That break made it easier for Auburn’s defense to carry that mantra into the Week 8 matchup against Arkansas.
“If we don’t play the Auburn way, then the outcome won’t be in our favor,” Williams said. “So (the coaches) continue to put into our minds that we’re going to play how Auburn plays, and we’re going to work on ourselves and not worry about anyone else. It’s going to be in our hands.”
And that’s a defensive motto that comes from the top of the chain of command.
“We don’t get out of that realm of, ‘OK, I get concerned about this,'” Steele said. “What plays they call, when they call them, who they’ve got on the field — we don’t control that. We control what defense we call, what gap that our players have, what zone they have, what man they have and how they play that.
“And so, when it’s in your control, concern’s not an issue.”