“So no matter who’s down or who’s out, when we jump off the helicopter Saturday, we have to be ready to play," said junior edge rusher Derick Hall.
Auburn won’t physically ride a helicopter to Fayetteville on Saturday, the school instead opts for luxury with its own runway and private jets. But commercial travel aside, Hall summed up Auburn’s defensive effort midway into the season pretty well with this small quote.
Down a leader in veteran senior edge rusher T.D. Moultry and with multiple starters still settling into their roles, the Tigers’ entire defense is still working toward being a cohesive unit. Something that they will need to figure out fast as the team travels to face a score-happy Razorback offense.
“Coming in, I’ve always seen myself as a leader," Hall said. "T.D. definitely helped me along in that room, but just being able to try to hold our room together, get guys to bond closer."
Auburn lost four of its 2020 starters to the NFL draft, as well as two other defensive linemen making the decision to transfer to the University of Florida prior to the start of this year’s season. The team could stand to get more in-game practice together as a combined unit against quality opponents, as a few of Auburn’s wins have been blowouts against lesser talent.
“I mean that just means we have to play more snaps we have to play a little more together build that brotherhood just a little bit closer to bridge that gap that we have with T.D. missing," Hall said. "I think guys have taken that really well because [Bert] Watts does a really good job keeping our room together, bringing the energy everyday.
We feel like we’re a special group and we feel like we can get the job done and we always just say ‘take care of our people, accomplish the mission’.”
The Tigers’ defense has shown flashes of previous Auburn greatness as LSU was shut down in Baton Rouge with three punts and an interception in the second half, while Georgia was held to multiple field goals and two punts in crucial situations on the road at Jordan-Hare.
It also has shown the vulnerableness to give up the big plays, with Penn State, LSU and Georgia all having passes over of 30 yards on the Tiger secondary.
“We put great defense together in spurts so if we’re able to do that for a full four quarters, I think we would have no issue going in there and executing our plan," Hall said. "Defense as a whole, we could honestly get better everywhere...I think just being more consistent there to put it together for a whole four quarters of a game is really gonna impact our future here over the second half of the season.”
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Larry is a senior studying journalism with a minor in sociology. He is from Enterprise, Alabama and is in his third year with The Auburn Plainsman.