AUBURN, Ala. — The defense can’t tackle quarterbacks Jarrett Stidham and Sean White in Auburn football fall camp. But that doesn’t mean it can’t make things hard for the competing signal callers.
That was evident in Auburn’s first scrimmage of fall camp Monday, when the first-team offense only scored a single touchdown against the first-team defense. It was a rushing TD shortly after an explosive pass play that junior linebacker Darrell Williams said would’ve been ruled a sack in normal circumstances.
“I made a sack before, so that’s how they got all the way to the red zone, because [Auburn coach Gus] Malzahn just let it go,” Williams said. “But they’re going to count that as a sack because I was looking at the quarterback when he threw the ball. I had to stay away from him.”
SCRIMMAGE REPORT: Auburn’s first-team defense ‘wins’ first fall scrimmage
Although Stidham and White — along with true freshman quarterback Malik Willis — are wearing non-contact jerseys in practices and scrimmages, Auburn’s first-team defense got after them Monday.
Malzahn agreed with the sentiment that a strong defense should get the edge over the offense in a vanilla opening scrimmage. He was particularly impressed with how the defense closed down a lot of running room Monday.
“I was excited from a defensive standpoint [with] how well they stopped the run,” Malzahn said. “Like I was saying with our run fits, I was excited about how the defense worked together. They know their assignments. The run fits really stood out to me in a pretty good way today.”
A number of defensive victories came in the passing game, too.
Auburn’s first-team defense was responsible for several sacks and a pair of interceptions, according to Williams. One of those picks was returned for a touchdown by sophomore cornerback Jamel Dean.
Those plays frustrated the first-team offense, and the defense was happy to keep them coming inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. Williams said he believes it’s for the offense’s own good.
“I mean as a team, we hold each accountable,” Williams said. “So we want to put that pressure on them, you know what I’m saying, because it’s not going to be easy. For somebody you care about, you love, you’re not just going to soften up on them because that’s not what they’re going to get in the real world. We put that into a game-like aspect, and we try to pressure them and push them as hard as we can.”
The defense’s brand of tough love won out in the first scrimmage. Sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Brown said the offensive players were well aware of that Monday.
“They know when we get to them it’s a sack,” Brown said. “We just pull off them and run back out.”
Brown was a leader in the trenches for the Tigers against an offensive line that is still trying to figure out its best-available starting five.
On the practice field, intensity runs high between the two lines. But Brown says it quickly turns off once they return to the locker room.
“I would say, honestly, it’s a love/hate relationship,” Brown said. “Because in practice, we want to get after each other. In the scrimmage, we want to get after each other. But then when we get back, it’s all love. We can go hang out with each other.”
Williams and Brown were pleased with their performances Monday, but they both expect some revenge Saturday when the Tigers return to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
After all, that’s what the defense wants to bring out of its offensive teammates.
“I feel like we shut them down pretty good,” Williams said. “But they’re going against a good defense. We’re just trying to challenge each other, so when we go out on Saturday we give each other good looks.”