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Auburn's defense looking better, says Gus Malzahn

Aug. 25, 2014

Quan Bray could be the first to return punts for Auburn this season

By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ¯ Ellis Johnson was Auburn's third different defensive coordinator in three straight years.

Last year.

This year, Auburn's defenders know what to expect of their coach heading into the season-opener, and head coach Gus Malzahn has seen a difference.

"Last year, he really took what we had and made the best of it," Malzahn said on his weekly Tiger Talk radio show Monday night. "We took some chances. We were deficient in a couple of areas."

Not anymore. Malzahn said Johnson slowed things down this past spring and "he really went back to basics. He worked extremely hard on tackling. Coach Johnson is old school. He's going to tackle every day. He feels a lot better going into this season than he did last year."

Malzahn said he can especially see the difference in the play of the linebackers heading into Saturday's season-opener against Arkansas in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

That's not all he said on Tiger Talk. Try this from our collection of tweets and non-tweets:

• On his team in general: "I feel they're hungry, the way we left that last game" last season.

• On his running backs: "Early on, with our seniors, you know what we're getting" with Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne

• Malzahn said he's expecting a good year from Quan Bray returning punts. And, he said, "four or five guys" are still in the running for kickoff returns.

• On the challenge of this week: "The first game is not tough to get motivated."

• Radio host Rod Bramblett said there's 50-60 percent chance of rain for the game.

• Malzahn said receiver coach Dameyune Craig feels "really good about his room right now" and he should with so many experienced receivers. Plus, Malzahn said, newcomer Duke Williams has arrived.

• Senior Trovon Reed is doing well switching from receiver to defensive back, Malzahn said.

• Malzahn said Auburn's defensive leaders are veterans Kris Frost, Gabe Wright, Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathon Mincy.

• He said defensive end Carl Lawson, who is out with knee surgery, "got a good report the other day," but didn't speculate whether he'd play this season.

• Malzahn said quarterback Nick Marshall is "very reactive now" in Auburn's offense because he knows it better and doesn't have to think about what to do.

"We'll see how that goes."

• Malzahn on the defensive line: "We have a lot of depth upfront, and I really believe it's quality depth." 

• He said defensive lineman LaDarius Owens has looked good on his return from injury.

• He said Justin Garrett and T.J, Davis are in line to play the Star position on defense.

Charles Goldberg is Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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