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Ellis Johnson looking for right mix in Auburn's defense
Aug. 3, 2014

Ellis Johnson looking for right combination at Auburn

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Gabe Wright Experiment is ongoing, says Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who isn't saying if his senior will play defensive end, defensive tackle --  or both. 

"I think it’s going to depend more upon on other players than it will Gabe," Johnson said Sunday. "We feel like Gabe might be the best defensive end. Gabe might be the best defensive tackle. So the question is: Who’s the other guy? Who’s the other tackle and end that’s the best football player? We’ll put them on the field and ask Gabe to play the other one. That’s going to be something that’s going to have to work out over the next several days of practice." 

Johnson said he'll "double-teach" Montravius Adams at both end and tackle, just like Wright. LaDarius Owens and Elijah Daniel will be at end. Johnson also said linebacker Cassanova McKinzy will see work on the edge in passing situations. 

Auburn will open the season a man down at end. Carl Lawson is recovering from knee surgery. 

Johnson said Auburn's third practice of the preseason Sunday "was pretty good." 

"All three practices, we have got an excellent retention and carryover from our system in the spring," he said. 

The first practice, he said, "we had a couple of periods of lackadaisical focus." But, "It's been really good since then. We're still making a few little mistakes, but it's just amazing how far ahead we are from where we were about the same time last year as far as getting things done, not having repeated mistakes, and just kind of knowing how things fit together." 

Johnson said he likes the play of McKinzy and fellow starting linebacker Kris Frost, but the backups have some work to do. 

"I've very seldom been displeased in our kids, because they've given great effort, and it's important to them, but I'm not satisfied right now with where we are after our first two linebackers," Johnson said. "It's pretty much wide open. Kenny Flowers had a good spring. Khari Harding only had about five, six practices. JaViere (Mitchell) missed spring. And then, Anthony (Swain) missed spring, and then Cameron (Toney), he's a redshirt freshman that's coming also. So that, for different reasons, that's kind of a mad scramble right now. I like the way they're competing, and I think we'll be fine, we'll find some depth in there." 

Josh Holsey, a cornerback in 2012 and a safety in 2013, is back at cornerback. 

"We kind of went back and forth with it. We feel like your boundary corner's got to be a big, physical guy, and that's where he was last year before we moved him," Johnson said. 

Now, Johnson is balancing the rest of his secondary.

"There's going to be some musical chairs because we've got more able bodies," he said. "We've got kids that are really making some plays out there, and we're going to see some guys that maybe can help us at a different position. I could foresee some position moves, but not right now. We're trying to get them enough reps where we can get them a fair evaluation of where they are playing."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:
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