Auburn, Ala.—It was just the first day of Auburn’s practices leading up to the season opener against Clemson on Sept. 1, but new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was already in midseason form. Barking out orders and correcting mistakes while the linebackers went through alignment drills during a special teams session, it’s obvious that VanGorder means business.
“He even told us in the meeting he’s going to pick his intensity up, and he’s definitely done that,” junior middle linebacker Jake Holland said. “Nothing gets by him. Every play, he sees everything. That’s good though because he’s correcting our mistakes, and that’s what practice is about, is fixing what we don’t do right so we can get it corrected for the season.”
As the middle linebacker and quarterback of the defense, the job of correcting mistakes ultimately falls to Holland on the field. Because of that he will occasionally take the brunt of the criticism from VanGorder if the defense isn’t aligned properly. While it’s a lot of pressure, Holland said it’s a role he readily embraces.
“Yeah, well, there’s a lot of responsibility as the middle linebacker and I’m used to it,” Holland said. “Getting yelled at is part of the game, especially at my position. There’s a lot that I have to know, and there’s a lot that goes on that I have to lead. I have to lead the team, and when something doesn’t fit right it’s on me because I’m the leader of the team so there’s a lot of responsibility there, and I’m excited to take that on.”
With Holland and senior Daren Bates looking solid in their roles heading into the new season, the one job at linebacker that is still up for grabs is the other outside spot with senior Jonathan Evans and redshirt freshman Kris Frost in the mix. Holland said both guys bring something to the table and the competition should only make each better in the long run.
“Yes, he’s getting some reps,” Holland said of Evans. “I’m really excited to see what he’s got in store for us. He’s still – on the mental side of the ball – he’s still got to learn the defense. We all have to learn the defense, but he missed spring so he’s a little behind. But I think he can put in the work and get it done.
“It’s still the first practice, but physically he’s gained weight,” he added of Frost. “He looks better physically. Like I said, mentally, we all still have a long way to go. We’re putting in a new defense. But I’m excited to see what we have in store for the season.”
With a new defense to learn the summer voluntary workouts were a huge part of the equation for the 2012 Auburn defense. With the opportunity to work on the little parts of the defense and build towards practices, Holland said it gave them a good base heading into what could be a much better season on that side of the ball for the Tigers.
“The summer was very productive,” Holland said. “We got a lot done, it was organized and the veterans of the team stepped up. I’m really excited about the leadership on the team because we’re starting to communicate better, and everything’s coming together great.”
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