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Mind Games: Fresh Mental Approach in Auburn's Playbook
Ellis Johnson watches in the spring (Todd Van Emst photo)

June 24, 2013

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN — New defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson watched the Auburn football team in the spring, has received reports about workouts this summer and has come to this conclusion about last year's difficult season. 

"Physically," he says, "this team had no business losing nine games." 

But Auburn did, and the new coaching staff is working toward turning that around in 2013 with a fresh game plan of Xs and Os, as well as a fresh approach to the mental side of the game. 

Johnson said Auburn and Gus Malzahn has acknowledged last season, but is putting its energy looking forward. 

"Gus addressed last year real quick, and made sure they understood that in our eyes it was unacceptable, but it was over," Johnson said. "Whatever caused it was not going to be made their fault unless it continued. Those weren't his words, but that's how I took it. The point we took them was: We're not going to talk about it, but we won't accept it again." 

Last year was a tough season for Auburn alums, such as new defensive line and associate head coach Rodney Garner

"I don't think their record was indicative who they were," Garner said. "I think things just got out of control and started spiraling and couldn't get it back. I don't think it's 3-9 talent. But for whatever reason, they couldn't find a way to win. 

"I think this staff has done a really good job of trying to rebuild in all areas — mental, physical, psychological — all areas of the psyche. The thing we have to concentrate on is getting more synergy, of getting everybody to focus all their energy on working together and taking out the word 'I' and 'me' and being more focused about 'us, we, Auburn' than all the individual accolades. If the team does well, individuals will get accolades." 

Garner stressed that in the spring, and says he expects the players to get it in summer workouts. 

"That's when you learn what it takes to be a champion," he said. 

Johnson said he has a good feel about the team turning it around. 

"They are determined that it's not going to be like last year," he said.

Charles Goldberg writes for Follow Goldberg on Twitter:



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