In his career, Gus Malzahn has been praised for his abilities to revamp the offenses of the teams he has coached. His offensive prowess has impressed many fans, and he believes his offensive legacy will help Auburn to strengthen their defense this fall as well. According to Malzahn, he believes Auburn will produce one of the best defenses to improve their college football odds. Technically, this would not be an uphill task for the players because the last three years have seen them work with high defensive standards.
In his tenure as the head coach of Auburn, the last three seasons have seen the Southern Conference ranking the Tigers at the bottom places when it comes to their major defensive statistical categories. The same trend also reflects their national rankings. It was his first season as Auburn coach in 2013 when Malzahn fielded his best defensive unit to win the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers went 12-2 and failed to clinch the national title with 13 seconds.
In the same season, Auburn ranked 31st nationally with 33 sacks, 13th with a conversion rate of 33% on third downs and 12th when it comes to limiting opponents to touchdowns with 50% of red-zone trip. Their defense ranked 87th with 420.7 yards per game, 63rd in rushing defense with 163 YPG, 47th in scoring defense with 24.7 YPG, and 102nd in passing defense with 257.7 YPG. Only the passing defense has seen an improvement every season, while other categories have deteriorated.
Auburn’s defense struggled last season to end up in the 80th position in rush defense and ranking 102nd with 19 sacks nationally. In terms of third downs, Auburn ranked 110th with 44.95% conversion rate nationally for opponents. Furthermore, the defense allowed over 400 YPG twice in three seasons.
Kevin Steele is Auburn’s third defensive coordinator, and Malzahn confidence points towards some few reasons. Defensively, Auburn’s defensive lineup has experienced players who played excellently in the second half of last season. Most of the players still exist in the team, which is an important aspect. According to Malzahn, he has a chance of building up the best defenses since he arrived in Auburn.
Auburn’s defensive abilities improved tremendously in the second half of last season, especially after Carl Lawson returned from a prolonged hip injury. They had the best unit in the last few games of 2015 leading to finest victories against Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. Even the exit of Muschamp and Travaris Robinson, their former defensive backs coach to South Carolina did not affect them. When Carl Lawson played, Auburn’s defensive numbers upgraded tremendously. The strength of the Tigers defense lies with Dontavius Russel, Montravius Adams and Lawson among the six starters who seem to be at their best in many years.
Malzahn’s confidence remains intact with the signing of three new coaches: Kevin Steele (defensive coordinator) Travis Williams (linebackers coach) and Wesley McGriff (defensive backs coach). In addition to their defensive response in spring practices, Malzahn believes his team will show substantial progress this fall. The defenders have experienced significant transition because both Muschamp and Steele use similar ideas and terminology in their desired defensive patterns.
According to Malzahn, the sense of being on the same page can be felt in the defensive staff room. Currently, it remains a feeling but Malzahn instincts also remain high that Auburn’s defense will deliver the greatest performances since he arrived. He believes that the defense will stay healthy and earn it, especially with the fact that they played tremendously in the second half of last season.