By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Jeff Holland saw his football game grow up late last season, thanks in part to his position coach showing him how and his dad saying he could do better.
Holland, an Auburn freshman last season, followed their lead, played well in Auburn's bowl game and is now in preseason camp with the feeling he can contribute more in 2016.
Holland said he learned his lesson last year after a slow start.
"I was told that I had to take the game more seriously. I guess I didn't come in taking it seriously," Holland said. "Now, I'm just in my playbook. I'm trying to be great. I'm trying to get better as a player."
Holland said his father, Jeffrey, told him to take his opportunity seriously.
"I had problems learning the plays last season, and he just told me to get better learning and get in my playbook now. That's what I've been doing."
That advice hit home. And so did the words of defensive line coach Rodney Garner.
"In recruiting he was on me about school work, about being a man. He's big about being an Auburn man," Holland said. "It's not really about football. He's just big on being a man."
Holland said he needed all that fatherly advice. "Yes, sir," he said after Tuesday's practice. Now, he says he's ready to take his nice finish and his bowl work last season into Auburn's season-opener against Clemson on Sept. 3.
"Study. Be more focused," Holland said.
"I think I've made a lot of progress. I've just got more focused, I got in my playbook. It's a process, and I had to follow along with the process of listening to my coaches."
Holland, who had 13 tackles last season, said it's been a smooth transition from former defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
"It's really the same. They're both great coaches," Holland said. "Coach Steele loves the effort. Coach Muschamp loves the effort. Both of them are physical coaches — they love the physicality of the game."
Steele says Holland "likes to rush the passer and he's got a skill set that allows him to do that. He's got quickness, explosion, good use of his hands and he runs relatively good for a guy in that position. He likes to play. He enjoys playing. He has fun out there practicing."
Offensive lineman Robert Leff, who goes against Holland in practice, says the defensive lineman is a top pass rusher, saying he's second on the team to Carl Lawson and playing tough like Montravius Adams.
"I can't really rank myself," Holland said. "I'm just working hard. I get with Carl and Montravius. They work me. I'm just trying to be like Carl."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine