The Auburn football team’s 26-19 loss Saturday night marked its first defeat in an opening game since falling to Georgia Tech in 2005. Coach Gene Chizik‘s young team played like the young team it was listed as. Taking a look at and grading the performance of each defensive position against Clemson this weekend, there is still clearly room for improvement.
Defensive Line: D
The play of the defensive ends was decent, with both Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford recording two sacks each. However, other than Gabe Wright and Ken Carter, both non-starters, there were no tackles recorded by a defensive tackle on the roster. Clemson racked up 320 rushing yards, but many came from quarterback Tajh Boyd scrambling from the heat the line brought.
To put it simply, the group just isn’t there yet. Despite Jake Holland and Daren Bates finishing third and fourth on the team in tackles, respectively, and Bates adding an interception, the play of the linebackers was down-right pathetic. With the entire defensive line rushing the pocket and putting Boyd under pressure, the linebackers were unable to answer the call when the quarterback scrambled for first down after first down.
The most pitiful of all the positions was the secondary. It was the one group that simply could not get it together. Boyd made the cornerbacks and safeties look foolish as he completed passes for big gains with ease. With Sammy Watkins absent because of a suspension, DeAndre Hopkins answered the call, setting a school record with 13 receptions.
It’d be very easy to give Auburn an F overall, but Coordinator Brian VanGorder said after the game one of his goals is to improve throughout the season. As horrible as the Tigers’ defense played, Auburn could have still easily won the game because the defense held Clemson to attempting five field goals as it only scored two touchdowns. It’ll be interesting to see how the defense bounces back this week with a big conference game against Mississippi State Saturday that may decide the way the season swings.