The offensive lines of Auburn’s opponents have been forced to enter a frightening and malicious place in 2017: the dojo of “Sensei Mud.”
The nickname falls on the shoulders of Jeff Holland, junior outside linebacker for the Tigers. Holland earned the handle over the summer, when trainer Ben Creamer took a visit to The Plains to work with the team.
Creamer, who has a background in martial arts, took time during the sessions to teach the Tigers some hand-to-hand combat drills to “use their hands as a weapon.”
Holland took the lesson to heart. The Jacksonville, Florida product credits Creamer with his new workout routine. The exercises shaped a new sack celebration as well for Holland: a traditional bow.
To add to the martial arts style of the buck’s play, Holland wears an Auburn headband with a Chinese character translating to “Mud.”
“Sensei Mud,” as Holland now refers to himself, is putting Creamer’s techniques to good use, as the 6-foot-2, 250-pound pass-rushing specialist now leads the SEC in sacks this season with eight.
In Auburn’s 52-20 rout of Arkansas on Saturday, Holland turned in his most impressive outing of the season, forcing two fumbles, recovering one and tallying 1.5 sacks.
"He loves football,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "He's taken his game to the next level. Coach Garner is really helping him with that. His motor is really something. He's not just good rushing the passer, he's good against the run, too."
Holland became the first Tiger to force a pair of fumbles in the same game since Corey Lemonier (vs. Georgia, 2011). He also became the first to force and a recover a fumble in an outing since Cassanova McKinzy did it in the 2012 season.
Auburn’s defensive line anchor spearheaded a monstrous performance by the unit as a whole. The Tigers recorded eight tackles for loss and a season-high tying six sacks on the night.
As Auburn built upon its lead in the late third and early fourth quarters, the benches began to empty and most Tigers who made the trip to Fayetteville saw the field.
Defensive end Big Kat Bryant and linebacker T.D. Moultry recorded the first sack and half-sack of their freshman careers, respectively. Sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Dinson tallied his first career sack as well.
Kevin Steele’s defense played full-speed and at a 100 percent pace en route to the decisive road victory, a play style that Holland claims leads to an enjoyable four hours on the gridiron.
“It was very fun,” Holland said. “We got after the quarterback, and we got a ‘W.’ That’s where all the fun comes in.”
Holland now trails former Auburn OLB Carl Lawson in career sacks on The Plains by four – Holland has 10.5 in his third season while Lawson boasts 14.5 in his three-year stint at Auburn.
Lawson was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and is second on the team with 3.5 sacks through five games, making a strong early case for the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Creamer also works with the Bengals, where he has seen stark similarities, like Auburn fans have, between Holland and Lawson’s fast and disruptive play styles.
For his efforts in Week 8, Holland was tabbed SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week. His pass-rushing mate on the line, first year DE Nick Coe, also earned SEC Honors, being named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week for the second time in 2017 (vs. Mississippi State). Coe led the team with six tackles and added a half-sack of his own.