Muschamp Pleased With Youth On Defense

Will Muschamp

After reviewing the film, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp came to the same conclusion that it was a good day for the young players on defense.

Ala.--Overall it was a good week for the Auburn defense. The Tigers allowed 300-plus yards to a I-AA team, but the bottom line was a favorable outcome. Will Muschamp's unit allowed just three points, worked Merrill Johnson and Aairon Savage back into the lineup, rested some of the walking wounded like Zac Etheridge and got a look at some of the future players on the AU defense.

"We got a lot of guys in," Muschamp explains. "It was a pleasing thing in a game like that and we kept it pretty simple with what we were doing. We got to get some guys on tape, some guys that deserved probably to play more to this point and get them in the game, so it was a good day.

"I thought that (cornerback) Jerraud Powers did some good things from a production standpoint," the defensive coordinator continues. "(Linebacker) Merrill Johnson was active and it was good to get him back in the fold a little bit more and getting him back healthy. (Linebacker) Josh Bynes did some good things at the mike coming in and playing for us. (Cornerback) Walter McFadden, of course the interception was a really nice play on a good wideout. He stepped in front of the kid and made a nice play on the slant. It's always good to score on defense.

"I felt like we should have rushed the passer better with four guys as the game continued to go along there. They ran the ball, they wanted to run the clock and we didn't fit the runs the way we wanted to all of the time. Third down was a little bit of an issue, but we stayed pretty simple in our plan of what we were trying to do."

After watching the film, Muschamp also had kind words for senior defensive tackle Josh Thompson.

"Josh Thompson was named the player of the game and he's played well all year. He was certainly deserving a couple of other times. He only played 17 snaps, but when he was in there he was very disruptive in a couple of short-yardage situations."

Head coach Tommy Tuberville told media on Sunday that Johnson looked rusty coming back to action after a sprained rotator cuff early in the season. Muschamp agrees, but says it was expected and correctable.

"What I am saying is from an effort standpoint and getting him some snaps," he notes. "We had some mental mistakes at the position, but they're all correctable mistakes. I was looking at it more from an effort standpoint. He played 33 snaps and that's the most he's played since the South Florida game when he got hurt. That's what I was seeing more of. I was looking for snaps and being active. There are some things we can hone in on and they're correctable."

While Johnson returned the linebacker corps, Craig Stevens was absent with a sprained ankle. Quentin Groves filled in at his strongside spot.

"He did some good things," Muschamp notes of Groves. "Playing off the ball is a little different, but he's an instinctive guy and he's able to catch on to what we're doing. Into the linebacker, he's done that all year. We just put him in some off-the-ball things. He's playing more of a stack linebacker, which is a little different."

Muschamp says that Groves will again be the starter at strongside linebacker against Georgia with Tray Blackmon in the middle and Chris Evans on the weakside.

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