Keeping your poise: Auburn cornerbacks get the message

Aug. 10, 2013

MelvinSmith

Melvin Smith offers some advice to his defensive backs (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg
AuburnTigers.com

AUBURN, Ala. -- Melvin Smith has coached enough in the SEC to know what works, and what doesn't, and even how to try to keep up with all these new fast-paced offenses, like the one Gus Malzahn uses. 

Keep it simple. 

"The worst thing you can do is be panicky on defense and lose your poise," the Auburn cornerbacks coach says. "I think you focus on keeping your poise and trusting your technique and playing the call. I lean to the side that less is more. If we know what we're doing, and we can get aligned, and we're looking at the right thing, we're going to be OK. 

"We're simple in making our call. One word tells us everything to do." 

Smith knows the game. This is his 32nd year as a college coach, the 21st for current members of the SEC. He's picked up many things along the way, liking knowing the skill set of each player.

"You learn what you can do and what you can't do, and the best thing to do with certain kids," Smith said. "If you have kids doing things they can't do, you can lose a game in one or two plays, and it usually comes down to one or two plays."

Smith knows about cornerbacks. One of his, Jonathan Banks, won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country last year at Mississippi State. The 2007 Mississippi State defensive backs had 17 interceptions. 

Smith also knows the score with his Auburn cornerbacks. They didn't have an interception last season with a different defense with a different coaching staff. Smith shakes his head at the thought, saying he can't believe starter Chris Davis didn't have one because he's looked so good in practice. He says his other cornerbacks can did the job, too. 

"They've done what I've asked them to do," Smith said. "I asked Chris to take charge of the group. He did, and, at times, take charge of the team." 

Smith liked the way Davis responded. 

"I've never been on a team that was real good that was managed by the coaches. The players had some get-up-and-go about them. I've seen big-time carryover. I gave them assignments this summer, and I saw it the first day I got them out there this fall because I tested them. I'm a visual learner because everything I do I've got to see. You can tell me a lot of stuff, but I've got to see you do it. I've seen that they've improved the area I wanted them to improve in. 

"If I can keep them all healthy, I feel good about our corners." 

Davis is a likely starter at one cornerback. Jonathon Mincy is ahead at the other spot. Jonathan Jones and Ryan White are close behind. 

"Mincy has really played well. And Jonathan Jones has been really consistent. And Ryan is getting better," Smith said. "We've got some crafty guys. I really like our corners. I like them a lot." 

His cornerbacks get plenty of practice, just trying to keep up with a fast-paced offense on a daily basis. 

You want plays, you'll get plenty of them. 

"We have to go against Coach Malzahn every day," Smith said. "If we can follow them around and keep up, we can follow anybody else around."

Charles Goldberg is a writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: