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StatTiger

Spring look at Pass Defense

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During the 2012 season, Auburn's defense was dead last in interceptions (nationally), and No. 106 in passes defended per game. It was one of many dismal memories of a disastrous season resulting in the firing of Coach Gene Chizik. Three years later, only two Power-5 teams have intercepted more passes than the Auburn defense (36) the past two seasons and Auburn is No. 7 among Power-5 teams in interceptions made over the past three seasons (49). Auburn's combined 49 interceptions during the past three seasons are amazing when you consider their average ranking of No. 90 in quarterback sacks. During the past two seasons, Auburn's average ranking in sacks is 108th, yet the Tigers have intercepted 36 passes. Despite the lack of a pass-rush, Auburn was No. 19 in passes defended during 2014 and No. 28 in 2015.

Inside the Numbers:

  • Auburn finished at No. 31 in pass-efficiency defense in 2015, Auburn's best ranking since 2008 when the Tigers finished No. 30 nationally.

  • Last season Auburn had 14 interceptions to 13 touchdown passes allowed. The INT/TD ratio marked the first time since 2007 Auburn recorded more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed.

  • The 2015 Auburn defense finished No. 11 nationally, allowing a TD pass every 35.2 pass attempts. Auburn's TD ratio allowed was impressive considering Auburn was No. 117 in sack ratio, with one every 24.1 pass attempts. The national average during 2015 was one every 15 pass attempts.

  • Despite the lack of a pass rush, Auburn's defense was No. 5 nationally in allowing the fewest pass plays of 25-yards or more.

  • From 2000-2015 Auburn's defense allowed an average pass rating of 119.6. During games the opponent was held to under a 125 pass-rating, the Tigers compiled a record of 106-23-0 (.822).

  • From 1990-2015 Auburn won 81 percent of their games when recording at least 4 QB sacks. The Tigers won 72 percent of their games with three sacks, 67 percent with two sacks, 58 percent with one sack and 52 percent with no sacks.

  • From 1990-2015 Auburn is 21-40-0 in games the defense allowed the opponent to complete at least 55 percent of their passes for at least 8-yards per pass attempt.

  • From 2000-2015, the average national ranking in pass-efficiency defense of the SEC Champion was No. 23. The average national ranking for the National Champion was No. 12.

Lost Personnel:

Auburn must replace 4 of their top-5 leading tacklers from 2015 in Kris Frost, Cassanova McKinzy, Blake Countess and Jonathan Jones. The four former Tigers combined for 310 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 interceptions, 27 passes defended and 22 quarterback hurries last season. The loss of McKinzy and Jones stand out when it comes to pass defense because McKinzy led the team in quarterback sacks and hurries and Jones led Auburn in passes defended. Jonathan Jones led the SEC in passes defended during 2014 and was No. 4 last year. Blake Countess was No. 5 in the conference in passes defended. Jones and Countess combined for 45 percent of the passes defended by the Auburn defense.

Fortunately for Auburn, the Tigers are deep at defensive line and solid in the secondary, which are the two essential elements for pass defense. It will be a challenge to replace Jones and Countess, with Countess being a bonus acquisition for the secondary in 2015. New secondary coach Wesley McGriff will have plenty of options to put his best 4-5 DB's on the field. McGriff's last secondary at Miami recorded 16 interceptions in 2010 and his secondary at Vanderbilt in 2011 recorded 19 interceptions. His last season at the collegiate level was at Ole Miss, and the Rebels made 15 interceptions during the 2012 season. Coach McGriff spent the last three seasons coaching in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints.

2016 Personnel:

Auburn returns three primary starters in the secondary with Carlton Davis at corner and safeties, Rudy Ford and Tray Matthews. Carlton Davis made the All-SEC Freshman team as a true freshman last season and has the potential to be NFL-caliber material. Safety Rudy Ford has led Auburn in tackles the past two seasons and was the Southeastern Conference No. 3 leading tackler during 2015 and No. 11 during 2014. Tray Matthews missed several games last season after injuring his shoulder during the season opener against Louisville. He managed to record 46 stops in ten games but was never 100 percent after the season opener. Nick Ruffin and Stephen Roberts saw action at safety and performed well considering they transitioned from corner to safety.

Secondary%20Feature%201_zpssinbotow.jpg

Tim Irvin played as a true freshman last season, primarily in the nickel package. He will compete for the slot vacated by Jonathan Jones. Ohio State transfer Jamel Dean is someone to watch for during the competition for the vacated corner position. Like Carlton Davis, Dean would give Auburn another tall and physical corner should he win the starting role. Thus far, the coaches have liked what they have seen of Dean's effort and competitiveness. Markell Boston and Montavious Atkinson look to make a significant impact in 2016. Boston did not play last season, and Atkinson saw action at safety as a true freshman in 2015. Atkinson appeared in ten games and could be a player who could be moved to linebacker as additional depth.

The return of T.J. Davis and Joshua Holsey would be a major benefit in 2016 as both seniors have seen valuable action before their injuries. Holsey has been a starter at corner as well as safety but has plenty to overcome medically to get back on the field. If he makes it back on the field, what an inspiration he would be to his teammates as well as a much-needed leader. Two more corners to watch for are highly touted John Broussard (early enrollee) and redshirt freshman Javaris Davis. Both are 4-star recruits, giving Coach McGriff additional talented options in the secondary. Of the 17 scholarship DB's that will be available for Griffin in the summer, 11 were rated as 4-star talent.

Secondary%20Feature%202_zpsl6z2kj1x.jpg

Of the twelve players with at least 20 games of experience on the defensive side of the ball, nine are on the defensive line or secondary. The 2016 Auburn defense has the potential to make enormous strides towards improving upon their No. 31 ranking in pass-efficiency defense. The defensive line is loaded with talent and abundance of depth, which could provide a much-needed boost in pressuring the opposing passer. Including Jeff Holland at the "buck" position, Coach Rodney Garner will have 13 players rated as 4-stars or better to coach in 2016. Auburn recorded only 19 sacks last season but totaled 78 quarterback hurries, nearly doubling the 46 from 2014. If Auburn can convert 20 percent of those hurries into sacks in 2016, it could push the Tigers into the 30-sack range.

Thoughts?

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I am very excited to see how this D performs! This could very well be the best D we've had since 2007!

We have plenty of talent and depth at DL and DB. The question (as always) is LB. The potential is there with Tre, Holland, and the transfer from IL.

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I am very excited to see how this D performs! This could very well be the best D we've had since 2007!

We have plenty of talent and depth at DL and DB. The question (as always) is LB. The potential is there with Tre, Holland, and the transfer from IL.

Great info as usual Stat! And I agree with the post above. I hope the D plays up to its potential. The most concerning thing to me is lack of quality depth at LB.

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TRob coached em up last year, love the attitude and culture built through out the season. I honestly think that we will go back to a "bend but don't break" defense. Gus will want to get the offense rolling and defense will drop off a little.

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Stat, don't know if any one else has said it yet but I am really enjoying these previews - thanks!

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Stat is THE Best! Thanks Brother.

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thank you for all the information and insight. too often i forget to thank someone on here but it is not because i do not appreciate it!

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"Coach Rodney Garner will have 13 players rated as 4-stars or better to coach in 2016"

That is a big "Wow" right there!

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appears to me that we've finally got a healthy balance of talent and experience. TJ Neal from Illinois could be the final piece to the puzzle, bringing lots of experience and a résumé of big plays to the weakest position group on the team (in my opinion).

i share some of the optimism expressed, but i also want to see our offense to get back to 2013 "nascar" speed... which does our defense no favors.

Edited by jskilgro

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Stat, don't know if any one else has said it yet but I am really enjoying these previews - thanks!

+1!!!

++2!

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Remind me what injuries Holsey has. I knew the true freshman suffered a really bad knee injury against the thug from Texas A&M (Dinson) but I was not aware Holsey had that bad of an injury.

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Remind me what injuries Holsey has. I knew the true freshman suffered a really bad knee injury against the thug from Texas A&M (Dinson) but I was not aware Holsey had that bad of an injury.

He reinjured the same knee he tore in 2013. He has worked really hard to come back.

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Stat....don't know that I've heard anyone say this...but just looking at our stats it seems that CWM's plan last season was to prevent any cheap TDs and wanted to just keep the WRs in front of his DBs. You've seen the films but just considering the low sacks and passing success of opponents, looks like the emphasis was on keeping the receivers away from the goal line. And we did a pretty good job of that. AU bested opponents in yards per catch and yards per attempt and we sure did not have much of a passing attack.

During the regular season, we just tried to minimize the damage and looked to me like the basic "bend don't break". Just sat back and gave 'em the short stuff....and for the most part, the D got serious in the red zone but seemed willing to give ground between the 30s.

When Lawson came back we did more in the way of pass rush...but we did not gamble much with the defense..not that many all out rushes until the Memphis State game in which the defense took on a different look as best I could tell...much more aggressive with the pass rush

Edited by AU64

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Stat....don't know that I've heard anyone say this...but just looking at our stats it seems that CWM's plan last season was to prevent any cheap TDs and wanted to just keep the WRs in front of his DBs. You've seen the films but just considering the low sacks and passing success of opponents, looks like the emphasis was on keeping the receivers away from the goal line. And we did a pretty good job of that. AU bested opponents in yards per catch and yards per attempt and we sure did not have much of a passing attack.

During the regular season, we just tried to minimize the damage and looked to me like the basic "bend don't break". Just sat back and gave 'em the short stuff....and for the most part, the D got serious in the red zone but seemed willing to give ground between the 30s.

When Lawson came back we did more in the way of pass rush...but we did not gamble much with the defense..not that many all out rushes until the Memphis State game in which the defense took on a different look as best I could tell...much more aggressive with the pass rush

His two primary goals was to repair the run defense and limit the big plays. Auburn succeeded with limiting the big plays. Losing Lawson early really hurt as it did in 2014. Even Muschamp pointed out Ellis Johnson did a a solid jump but was hurt with the loss of Carl Lawson in 2014. My only criticism of Muschamp was his lack of subbing out the LB's to build depth. As the season progressed, Muschamp limited his subbing.

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Brilliant

Thanks, golf! You know I rely on you for my sense of self worth.

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