With football season fast approaching, many Auburn fans have questions concerning the team's defense.
With a successful first year on the Plains, most fans expect Auburn to show signs of improvement on the defensive side of the ball despite key losses such as Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams.
"We have the nucleus of good leadership that will help us in a lot of ways," Steele said. "The work ethic has carried on from last season to spring practice and to the fall camp."
The strength of the Auburn defense last year was no doubt its talent and depth on the defensive line and it looks like that will continue to be a strength for Auburn this upcoming year.
Steele often reiterated the concept of the 'next man up,' an effort to make sure the player second or third on the depth chart is ready to excel after last year's departures or an injury during the season.
"The people we have returning on the defensive line create a good nucleus, the younger guys are starting to step up and we need to make sure the next man up is ready, and we've done that," Steele said.
Auburn often struggled with depth and consistency at the cornerback position last year, but Steele believes the Tigers will be improved at that position.
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"I think the depth at corner was never a question when we had them all healthy, and we finally do." Auburn's defensive coordinator said.
When asked about how he would build on last year, Steele said "Last year was last year and it has very very little to do with this year in terms of the process."
However in terms of experience and team chemistry, Steele has no doubt the team's success last year will help them improve in those areas this season.
Many expect junior linebacker Jeff Holland to be the one to fill Carl Lawson's shoes as the linebacker-defensive end hybrid and leader of the defensive.
"I think Jeff exemplified in spring practice that he is headed in that direction at a high rate," Steele said. "He understands the expectations, and he knows how to get that done."
However, Steele made it clear that they were not going to name any starters yet.
"Make no mistake, there is no starting lineup, we're going to create stress, and create some competitiveness so that players can react to it.
"We're going to challenge players and move guys around based on the practice the day before, not what you did last year, and not what you did in the spring."
Steele singled out a few players from practice such as senior Jason Smith, who recently moved from wide receiver to defensive back.
"He looks like he's been there, and he's done a good job studying (his playbook) off the field," Steele said.
Steele gave praise to junior defensive tackle Dontavius Russell as 'one of the most accountable guys on defense' and sophomore cornerback Jamel Dean, who spent all of 2016 recovering from a knee injury as someone who Steele expects to "play, and play well."
Steele and his staff have created a "turnover of the day" award which he says "the players love, and love to compete for."
Steele's plan to create competitiveness between players and even move players around this fall may upset some fans, as most would love for a starting lineup to be named. However, with the Auburn defense healthy, extra competitiveness will only create depth and light a fire under players to hopefully improve on their solid year in 2016.
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