Published August 8, 2012 - 8:25am
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“This year there is more thinking. It’s just NFL,” defensive back Demetruce 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.”
But he certainly has his work cut out for him if he wants to totally transform this defense.
Auburn’s rushing defense was 94th (189.23 yards per game) in the country and the passing defense was 51st (218.8 per game). You can’t win football games posting those types of numbers each week.
Former defensive coordinator Ted Roof has moved on, and the former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator VanGorder is tasked with transforming this defense into SEC-caliber. He knows it won’t be a quick transition, either.
“We’ve got to gain a consistency just with our knowledge overall of the system from the linebacker position,” he said. “Of all the positions, the linebackers and the safeties in our system are most difficult. And linebackers being up in the front seven, there’s a lot more to what they’ve got to do in terms of proper alignment and coverage leverage and things right now that we’re struggling with.”
Particularly on the linebackers:
“If we’re going to live with some errors at that position from all the competitors, then the decision will come down to production,” VanGorder said. “We have a group of linebackers who, their numbers in the mental-error category aren’t good. So when you have that, you have to at least make a decision based on who’s going to be productive. 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 or play a lot of reps.”
Aside from saying his linebackers aren’t too smart, VanGorder will have this group playing with an attitude and with a passion.
This defense has to improve. After all, they have one of the best overall front fours in the SEC, and all four are returning starters highlighted by stud defensive end Corey Lemonier.
The defense was criticized last year – among other things – for playing very passively. One thing VanGorder will do is make his players play physical and play with passion. And we all know he is capable of that. Just look at his defense when he was with Georgia from 2001 to 2004. I would argue until last year, Georgia’s defense hasn’t been close to playing at a physical level like when he was there.