VanGorder’s presence already being felt
It’s no secret that Auburn’s defence has been far from dominant the past three years. Under Ted Roof, the unit lacked complete cohesion and found itself struggling frequently. Even though the blame can’t entirely be placed on Roof, the unit suffered because of depth issues, and at times it seemed as though not everyone was on the same page. This time it’s different.
If there is one thing Brian VanGorder will bring back to this defense, it’s the nastiness that was prevalent in the Tommy Tuberville years. When guys like Chizik and Muschamp were manning the defence, there was a real attitude that had opponents biting their nails. VanGorder isn’t afraid to rip into a player if he does something wrong, and at this stage, it’s almost a must.
Yoxall worked on some of these players in the summer as well, getting them bigger, faster and stronger. And it hit some better than others – Florence brought his playing weight up to 196 pounds, Bates up to 220, Mason up to 205, Ford up to 250 and Frost found his way to 235. All massive gains. VanGorder loves bigger defenders, and another year in the system obviously benefited them as individuals, and the unit itself.
VanGorder brings in a similar defensive scheme to Chizik, and after three years of basic, simplified schemes, Chizik and co will crank it up a notch and teach these players the NFL way.
“This year there is more thinking.” McNeal said. “He’s getting us ready for the NFL and what we’re going to see. He’s just making us better. A lot of guys have to think more this year and really know football. That’s really what this year is about – us knowing football.”
Teaching the players an NFL system can have it’s pro’s and con’s. If they understand it, it makes it harder for offences to scheme around and tougher to score on. But if they don’t get it, it can cause a lot of confusion and could potentially affect the scoreboard.
But VanGorder isn’t slow playing these guys, he’s thrown them right in the deep end and right now they’re struggling to swim. VanGorder wants to find consistency, especially at linebacker.
“We’ve got to gain a consistency just with our knowledge overall of the system from the linebacker position. Linebacker in our system, it take a lot of work for those guys. We put a lot on them in terms of communications and a lot of responsibilities associated with different concepts that we use.”
But that’s not to say that maybe there are some sparks of life somewhere. If there is one thing I’m sure of Chizik and co. will hold these players to high standards of play. Consistency is key, but who knows how long it may take to find it.
Safeties and linebackers hold the most responsibility, and it’s hard to really expect every likely starter to gain a grip on the system right away. But VanGorder believes it will be settled soon enough, my obvious concern is who step up their game and really takes control of the linebacker position.
And what are the chances of a freshman playing, or even starting? Not out of the question it seems.
“We have a group of linebackers who, their numbers in the mental-error column aren’t good. So when you have that, you have to at least make a decision based on production. So if a freshman has enough confidence and enough poise to play in a situation like the first game, then he’s got every chance to start and play a lot of reps.”
Walk-on safety Trent Fisher – who grew up around the NFL – had some interesting things to say. He believes it’s an NFL system and that the players need it and are excited over it.
“There’s a lot of pressure on everybody to make calls. It’s definitely something we need. The coaches are putting us in position to make plays. We’re going to get after it this year”.
He also mentioned that confidence plays a huge role in production, which refers back to the mental aspects of the defence. Rebounding after making a mistake is huge, and it will certainly be something that the coaches may look for when deciding on playing time through the season – which may be an advantage to the more experienced guys.
Who knows where this defence may be once the Clemson game rolls around. Getting the players familiar with the calls will slow the game down for them, which will obviously show progress. I’m excited about this unit, and you should be too.
(All of the quotes used can be found on Al.com)