March 31, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN — Let's see... Jake Holland is learning something new. Says he's ready to contribute. Is trying to impress another defensive coordinator.
Yep, that's Jake Holland, senior linebacker.
Holland is a veteran presence in Auburn's defense, but he's learning some new tricks in spring practice, 2013, with the new coaching staff. He's working as the Mike linebacker, or the guy who makes the call in the middle. But he's also learning the Will linebacker, a position that requires more pass coverage as well as run support.
That'll have you re-reading the playbook. No problem, says Holland.
"I'm a senior now, and I've been through three different coordinators, so it's not difficult," he says. "The positions are fairly similar, so it's not a hard task."
The focus is the Mike because "we ask the Mike to do a lot more of the quarterbacking of the defense," says defensive coordinator Elis Johnson.
Holland had 73 tackles last season. He has 121 in his career. He's in a linebacker mix with Chris Landrum, Kris Frost, LaDarius Owens, Cassanova McKinzy and Anthony Swain.
Holland has been in a learning mode since arriving in Auburn. He played for defensive coordinators Ted Roof and Brian VanGorder before playing for Johnson, who is bringing in his 4-2-5 defense, one that features two linebackers instead of three.
Johnson's defense may be different in scheme, but part of it is streamlined, and easier, at least for the linebacker who will make the calls.
"The calls are a lot shorter. There are not five words to the call, there's one word to a call, and everybody knows their position," Holland said. "No more huddling, with the tempo we can't do it. Everybody looks to the sideline, gets the signal, that's the process we go through."
Auburn will be looking to the sidelines for calls, both on defense and offense. That's because head coach Gus Malzahn believes in a fast tempo.
"At practices, tempo has been super-fast. That's something that I think is really good for us," Holland said. "It gets our tempo going, really makes practice fun. It's almost seems like practice goes by faster with that tempo. We're learning, we're making strides in that process, and I'm really liking the spring."
The pace brings options for Johnson. The Mike linebacker has the extra responsibility of making the calls, but the Will linebacker, "probably has a lot more variation in his coverage drops," Johnson said. "The other thing the Will has to do a little bit more is he'll do more blitzes on pass rushes. So those are two things that you have to look for that they've got to be able to do to play there."
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