The Auburn football team has nine new faces on the defensive side of the ball this season, and second-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele expects to play most of them.
Steele has been working the freshmen in with the veterans during fall camp, even giving a portion of the newcomers first and second team reps.
“We have a lot of young guys that we would like to see help us and so we are actually working them as much as we can,” Steele said. “Sometimes, even sprinkling them in with the first group and the second group and not just playing them together in the third group.
“We've done a good bit of that and they've responded. I think it helps them to play with older guys to sometimes gain confidence to really see how it's done. In that regard we've done that.”
Steele said all of the freshmen have gotten opportunities, but some of the main ones that have had greater loads in practice include linebacker T.D. Moultry, defensive end Big Cat Bryant and defensive back Jordyn Peters. Bryant has received reps at the Buck, while Peters has been working at safety and nickel.
The defensive coaches have been sticking Moultry in certain packages and situations in order to get him on the field sooner. The Jackson-Olin, Ala. native has been working at linebacker and also as a pass-rusher on the end.
“We've got coaches in our room Rodney, Travis, Greg, myself, in some point in time we've all been around a young guy that had a skill set and how to put that in a box for them and not overload them otherwise,” Steele said. “Obviously, at this point in time we're working more with him going toward the ball then running away from the ball.”
In Steele’s first year on the job the Tigers defense allowed 17.1 points per game, which was fourth-best in the SEC, while also holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry. And although they lose leaders Carl Lawson and Rudy Ford, this young defensive core has the chance to help the defense even better than last season.
“The biggest thing we’ve got to do is keep working and eliminating mistakes, getting on the same page communication wise, and then we’ve got to keep pressing on our fundamentals," Steele said. "But, it still goes back to demanding and commanding that they give great effort, that they play with physical and mental toughness, and that they tackle.”