AUBURN — Auburn football coach Hugh Freeze told reporters in January the weeks leading up to spring training would be stressful for his new hires.
The 53-year-old explained the shift from recruiting players in the first few months after staff arrived at Auburn to installing attacking and defending would be rapid. He conceded that he and his assistants wouldn’t be able to do it all, but said the Tigers “get better at something”.
With the first week of spring training in the rearview mirror, the coaches have started to present the scheme to the team. But it was a slow process.
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“They made it as easy as possible,” said senior defense lineman Marcus Harris. “They try not to burden us with everything at once. They try to spread it out over time. They are just great people. All coaches are great people. I’ve never met a coaching staff like that. Everyone is real and you can tell they care, on and off the field.
“The transition of this coaching staff was easy because they accepted us and let us know that they care about us even though they are new coaches and don’t know many players. They still take care of us.”
Junior defender Keionte Scott echoed similar sentiments on Wednesday: “The coaches have done a good job gradually giving us enough to catch up. … There are many coaches and GAs that help with things like that. Our coaches told us if we wanted to get a little more or were struggling with something, we just come up and be with them.
Harris, who is entering his third year with the program after moving from Kansas in 2021, said new defense coordinator Ron Roberts has yet to share exactly what the defense frontline will look like in 2023. The Montgomery native explained that the defense had been practicing in both 3-4 and 4-3 formations.
“Coach Roberts is a multiple defense guy,” Harris said. “We are preparing for both defenses right now. I really don’t know which one he’s going to like best.”
Roberts explained in an availability last month that creating “devastation” on his defense is important. That’s not just a word he’s throwing around, it’s a statistic he keeps. Whether it’s a sack, an interception, a pass resolution or anything of the sort, it’s recorded as chaos.
The goal is to cause chaos at least 20% of the games.
“It’s exciting to have a defense coordinator like that,” Harris said. “He told us a bit about it. I don’t know the exact numbers or anything, but they said that this spring they’ll be keeping an eye on the sacks and turnovers and whoever – they’ll be giving out T-shirts and gifts to people who have turnovers and negative plays and such Do things.”
Auburn isn’t training this week due to spring break, but the Tigers return to the field next Monday for their fourth practice of the spring. Freeze said Tuesday the team will likely have its first practice session in Practice #6, which is scheduled for March 17.
And it will be an opportunity for Harris to wreak havoc in exchange for a t-shirt or two.
“His defense is pretty basic, but we need to know that,” Harris said of Roberts. “He tries not to make things harder than they have to be.”
Richard Silva is the Auburn Athletics Beat Writer for the Montgomery Advertiser. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @rich_silva18.