Feed aggregator

Strong Scrimmage Shutout Great Sign for Auburn's Defense Under Will Muschamp

When Gus Malzahn walked off the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Monday, Auburn's offense hadn't scored a single touchdown all day.

A pointless performance would probably cause the offensive-minded head coach's brain to short-circuit. After all, the Tigers have averaged at least 35 points per game during his two seasons in charge.

But Malzahn was surprisingly pleased with the outcome.

"The bottom line is the defense whipped the offense today," Malzahn said, per Brandon Marcello of AL.com. "From a head coach's standpoint, I kind of like that."

Auburn reportedly ran 90 plays during its first scrimmage of fall camp, and the normally prolific offense only put up two field goals while fumbling three times.

Call Monday's scrimmage another sign of the Will Muschamp effect that has swept Auburn in 2015.

As Marcello noted in his post-practice recap, this performance is part of a growing trend under the Tigers' new defensive coordinator:

The performance by the defense is notable on the Plains, where offense usually dominates post-scrimmage headlines.

The development, however, does follow what can only be termed now as a trend for Will Muschamp's defense. The Tigers' A-Day scrimmage included only 38 total points, a stark contrast to the 58-3 score in 2014.

Whether the results translate in the season opener Sept. 5 against Louisville remains to be seen, but the early signs sure are promising for the Tigers' revamped defense under the former Florida head coach's guidance.

Muschamp's most identifiable characteristic as an assistant coach is his trademark intensity, and his defenses usually reflect that attitude out on the field.

Auburn players have remarked on the defense's physicality and intensity throughout the first few days of fall practice. On Monday, they had their first opportunity to show it in a completely live-ball situation.

"We were physical. That is something Coach wants us to be," senior cornerback Jonathan Jones said, per Ryan Black of Auburn Undercover. "I think we met his expectations today [of] being physical. We still have to improve a lot on X's and O's, but you can't beat how physical we were."

That physical nature has been lacking from Auburn's defenses under Malzahn and former coordinator Ellis Johnson. Across the last two seasons, Auburn has allowed an average of 410 yards per game.

Muschamp's defenses, however, have been elite everywhere he's been since his first stint as an Auburn assistant—especially when compared to the post-Tommy Tuberville years on the Plains.

One of the key figures in Auburn's defensive revitalization project under Muschamp excelled in Monday's scrimmage.

According to Black, Malzahn said sophomore defensive end and pass-rushing specialist Carl Lawson was "unblockable" Monday.

"You've just got to know where he's at. There's no doubt about that from an offensive standpoint," Malzahn said. "He disrupts. He's a disruptor, and a lot of times, even if he's not making the play, he disrupts stuff for other people."

Jones echoed his head coach and heaped praise on the Tigers' entire defensive line.

"Carl was great. The whole front, honestly, and that's going to help us this year," Jones said, per Marcello. "But having him back full go and out there pressuring quarterbacks, being unblockable—and the whole front, honestly, they dominated today, and I think that's really where the physicality started today, was with the front."

Monday marked Lawson's first live scrimmage since his ACL tear and subsequent surgery in the spring of 2014. He missed the entire season for the Tigers, who struggled mightily in pass rushing en route to a disappointing 8-5 record.

Lawson and the rest of the defense wasn't allowed to tackle junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson during the scrimmage, but Auburn's offensive leader still felt the effects of the strong performance.

"They were flying around, making plays," Johnson said, per Black. "They just beat us today."

Even though Johnson played a limited role in the scrimmage and the Tigers were still without top wide receiver Duke Williams due to a "discipline issue," Auburn's defensive performance is yet another sign of better things to come from the less successful side of the ball on the Plains.

And considering the amount of success Auburn has had moving the ball in game situations, one shouldn't worry about a rare scoreless performance from a Malzahn offense.

The Tigers offensive stars are already focused on rebounding from Monday's misfire in another scrimmage on Saturday.

"They definitely brought their energy today," senior wide receiver Ricardo Louis said, per Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News. "They brought that intensity. Offense is going to have to pick up next time we get out there."

They just know the bar is continuing to be raised by the new-look Muschamp defense.


Justin Ferguson is a college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com