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Auburn secondary 'got real thin,' hopes to be at full strength after open week

Auburn's secondary was reaching its limits from a personnel standpoint against Arkansas.

That the Tigers managed to allow just 163 passing yards in the 52-20 win without starters Tray Matthews and Javaris Davis and cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson playing through injuries was nothing short of stunning.

"It got real thin and there were times where we were just from play to play," defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. "In fact, I don't know if you noticed it, but maybe you did, but there was a couple of series in which Stephen Roberts had to go to corner. So we kind of mixed and matched.

"The good thing about it is Daniel Thomas and Jordyn Peters have progressed nicely and they're in playing form for young guys and doing quite well, but those other guys have been [in] with Tray Matthews missing snaps."

Javaris Davis did not travel and missed his third game in five weeks, with limited action at LSU a week earlier.

Carlton Davis, who had two tackles with a pass breakup against Arkansas, "has been nicked up a little bit," Steele said, and played through an undisclosed injury that happened early in the game.

Dinson, who had four tackles with one sack, has "played the most with the most pain" from an undisclosed injury of his own, in Steele estimation.

"Really proud of our guys," defensive backs coach Greg Brown said during a postgame radio interview. "Thought they held up well, performed well, especially the starting unit did a great job."

In addition to the ailments in the secondary, Auburn's defense got linebacker Tre' Williams back from a right shoulder injury that has hampered his senior season and cost him three of the prior four games. Fellow linebackers Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams suffered minor injuries against LSU, as did defensive linemen Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown.

"That's the SEC. You don't want them out there when - if they really, really are injured and can't go, you don't want them there," Steele said. "But the doctors tell us, 'Hey, if they can say they can go, good. They can't injure it any more.' But they have not been full speed."

The open week comes at a good time for the No. 19 Tigers (6-2, 4-1 SEC), who hope to have several key players back against Texas A&M and for the rest of the stretch run in November.

"We were a little beat up coming into (the Arkansas game) and it's going to give us some time and a chance to heal up," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "That's going to really be our priority (this) week."

Steele hopes his defense will be reloaded with healthy personnel, but he's not complaining about how battle tested they've been. He knows things could always be far worse.

"We've had to rotate guys and play at different times and different situations that wasn't the normal rotation," he said "That having been said, there are a lot of teams throughout the country that have lost guys for the year and we have not done that. So we just have to fight through it and hopefully we'll get them back for the A&M game, all of them. We may not. But we haven't lost them for the year, so that's a plus."

Auburn is already in the top 15 nationally in total and scoring defense and having matched its sacks from last season (25) in eight games. With its greatest tests to come, having its full starting lineup back would be crucial against Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama.

"We're going to get rolling," Williams said, "when we get everybody healed up and everybody healthy."


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It's bad that they were short handed but good that some of the young guys are getting to play and get experience same with the O'line. Our team is stacked this and next year with only a few holes to fill to be scary good. O'line and safety are the two biggest holes to fill.

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Daniel Thomas has been picked on the past couple weeks.  The defense has been less effective since Ole Miss and probably had a lot to do with LSU being able to score 27 on Auburn.  Let’s hope the secondary comes back healthy and gives Tamu’s freshman qb nightmares.

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