A look back on the first week of fall practice has several possible stories developing. There is a drive to concentrate on areas that were overlooked in 2009. There simply was not enough time to focus on the details as much when teaching new offensive and defensive schemes last year.
A lot has been made of comments by Iowa State Head Coach and former Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhodes. He has mentioned that tackling was a huge issue for him in the beginning of 2009. It was also apparent to Auburn fans that tackling was an issue with the 2009 Auburn team he had left.
This is simply one indicator of how different the focus and defensive schemes were for the two coaches. Rhodes believed in getting position and making a sure, sound tackle even at the expense of extra yards. Gene Chizik believes in applying the pads quickly and relying on swarming players to come in from the immediate area and cleanup.
Watching the two teams in 2009 was an indicator of how difficult changing this strategy can be. Ted Roof believes that the first man should expose the ball to the rigors of play during a tackle, increasing the chances of causing turnovers.
This was another method for Auburn players to be taught. It takes time to learn and be comfortable with a system. Most fans understood that the offense would have growing pains in the first year. The defense was expected to simply continue, but it did not happen.
It did not happen at Auburn and it did not happen for Paul Rhodes at Iowa State.
Iowa State 2009
Iowa State 2008
Ranked 86 of 120
Ranked 95 of 120
165.69 ypg allowed
176.17 ypg allowed
Ranked 102 of 120
Ranked 116 of 120
250.15 ypg allowed
276.67 ypg allowed
Tied 36 of 120
Ranked 40 of 120
.31 per game
.33 per game
Ranked 78 of 120
Ranked 54 of 120
156.08 ypg allowed
138.92 ypg allowed
Ranked 57 of 120
Ranked 19 of 120
218 ypg allowed
178.83 ypg allowed
Ranked 57 of 120
Ranked 100 of 120
.08 per game
-.67 per game
The current national title holders were ranked 26th in total defense in 2006 and 31st in 2007. It would seem that even the most experienced coaches seldom see huge improvements in their first year. The second is often a different matter all together.
This brings up some points that became evident during the first week of fall practice. Ted Roof seems to be enjoying his job more, and while he has never been the most upbeat coordinator in the SEC, he is more upbeat this fall than the last.
Video interviews with Gus Malzhan and Ted Roof show two coaches that are much more comfortable with the level of readiness on their units this fall as compared to last. This could tell more about the 2010 Tigers than any information about a particular player.
The Auburn defensive secondary was a major point of concern for Ted Roof in 2009. He had inexperienced players filling the gaps for injured starters. The lack of healthy defensive backs only worsened as the season matured.
He seems positive about the defensive backs this year. His remarks about the returning starters reveal a shift in strategy for keeping them healthy. He said, “We’re being smart with what we are asking them to do, and how they’re practicing.”
He also had some positive comment about senior Demond Washington. Washington had been the recipient of many positive remarks from the staff during spring practice, and it looks as if the performance that earned him their praise has lasted into the fall. Coach Roof said of him, “He’s had a good camp.”
Coach Malzhan commented on his quarterback depth situation, remarking ”I would feel comfortable with three to four of those guys getting in the game and being able to run our offense.” According to Malzhan, the battle for the backup position is still on going.
When asked about the size of 291 pound fullback Ledarius Phillips he said, “I’ve never had anybody even close to being that big.” He did mention that Phillips might need to lose a little extra baggage to reach maximum effectiveness, but admitted “he’s a load and he’s got running back feet.”
Sophomore offensive lineman John Sullen has shed 40 pounds of excess weight and increased his strength and quickness during the off season. This has worked out so well that he is now in the mix for the open right tackle position with juniors Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gayden.
No matter which one wins out for the starting slot, having two extra starting quality offensive tackles is a huge advantage. This will make resting Lee Ziemba and the eventual starter at right tackle possible without much, if any, change in performance.
Philip Lutzenkirchen has began to solidify his starting role at tight end. Gus Malzhan seemed quite impressed with the options he brings to the offense. He also mentioned that he has defiantly stepped up his intensity and performance a notch.
There have been a lot of comments about the quickness and athleticism of the defensive line. While contact begins soon and this is the best way to access this area of play, this can only be considered a positive development.