Auburn, Ala.—It has been a learning process for Auburn’s sophomore middle linebacker Jake Holland since arriving on the Auburn campus early in the summer of 2010. Working behind veteran Josh Bynes to learn how to play the position at the college level, the Pelham native said for him this season has been all about improvement.
“Ever since spring ball I feel like the game has really slowed down for me,” Holland said. “I'm able to make my calls and checks, and really just lead the defense. Each week I think we're making strides.”
That’s good news for a defense that has really struggled so far in 2011. After allowing 38 points, 27 first downs and 448 yards of total offense in the season opener to Utah State, the Tigers haven’t been able to consistently get off the field against the opposition and find themselves near the bottom of the country in several defensive categories.
Last week, however, Auburn’s defense made some strides forward, according to Head Coach Gene Chizik and coordinator Ted Roof. Holland agreed saying he felt like the defense played faster and got to the football.
“I think it was huge,” Holland said. “You guys saw last week I think it was a step forward for us, even though we've taken things in a simplified area. I think that's going to help us, especially with these young guys, and being able to make plays and running around and tackling instead of playing slower. I think that's really going to help us.”
Holland tracking the football
Playing middle linebacker in Auburn’s Tampa-Two scheme on defense, Holland said he’s becoming more comfortable with his responsibilities of playing the pass and getting depth to cover the middle. He said that it’s something he feels like he does well and the more he plays the better he gets at that part of the game.
“Each game is an experience for me,” Holland said. “I think I'm making a step forward each week that will help me in the future.”
This Saturday it won’t be as much about his depth on pass routes as it will about his ability to plug holes in the defense against powerful back Marcus Lattimore. Averaging more than 25 carries and 150 yards a game for the Gamecocks, Lattimore is a physical player who Holland said is tough to get on the ground.
“From last year he seemed to have gained a few pounds and he seems to be more of a power back this year,” Holland said. “Anybody who is 220-plus is going to be hard to get on the ground.”
More than likely one player won’t get Lattimore on the ground for the entire game, it’s going to take gang tackling for the Tigers to get the job done. Holland said it’s something he has focused on all week and he wants to make sure he’s in as many plays as possible on game day.
“Any time you have population to the ball on the ball, you have opportunities to make plays,” Holland said. “I focused on that last week. In practice I'd make sure I'd run to the ball, even if I knew I wouldn't make it to the ball and make a play, even after the whistle was blown. I think that helped me in the previous game making plays.”
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