AUBURN, Ala. — Kevin Steele gave his defense straightforward directions when spring practices started for Auburn football.
“I think the big thing is just do your job,” Steele said. “Master your task. If they do that, then it’s easy to move guys around. At the end of the day, we’re not specifically talking about one guy but it’s all of them, just produce. … You’ve got a job to do. Production is part of that, so produce.”
More specifically, Steele wants his unit to focus on creating turnovers — something the group struggled to do last season. In 13 games in 2016, Auburn intercepted 11 passes, forced 21 fumbles but recovered 6. The Tigers tied for 88th in the country with 17 turnovers gained.
So when the unit walked off the field after its first scrimmage Saturday, junior defensive back Carlton Davis knew he’d hear from Steele.
“That’s what he preaches,” Davis said. “Turnovers, takeaways, [play] physical, and when we don’t get the job done we have to go back to the drawing board and work on it.”
Auburn’s defense came up with 1 interception thanks to backup safety Michael Sherwood but understood the message it’d get in its meeting room.
“We had 1,” sophomore Javaris Davis said of Sherwood’s pick. “We should have some more, but 1. Coach [Steele] always preaches turnovers, but we didn’t really do that [Saturday]. We just have to watch the film like I said and see what we can do better.”
Expectations are higher for the Tigers this spring because of their defensive returners. Still, there are collective steps to take.
“We left some skin on the bone,” Carlton Davis said. “We got some things to work on. We got some things to just, you know, that we’ve seen already that we’ve got to capitalize on and just grow as a defense throughout this spring.”
Zeroing in on Steele’s demands simultaneously helps new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey as he develops the Auburn football underclassmen.
“Like I said before, we’re veterans now,” Carlton Davis said. “It’s time to really get after it. We’re really trying to help our receivers grow more because we have a lot of young receivers. We’re experienced guys; we’ve been there, done that. It’s our second spring, so by now we’ve seen a lot so we’re just trying to help our teammates grow.”
The group wasn’t discouraged after its first spring outing in Jordan-Hare. More scrimmages will be played, and the defense has a good idea of how to give its coach more of what he wants.
“Just keep working at it every day, make it a priority,” senior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “Last year it was a lot of things we had to adjust, and turnovers was one thing we had to work on, so we’re going to put a lot of emphasis on it this year like every day in practice. Somebody or anybody has to create at least 1 to 2 turnovers, and that will help us this fall.”