Aug 25, 2013
Justin Garrett is back on the field at Auburn (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — The star of spring practice is back on the practice field and tracking toward playing opening night for Auburn.
Justin Garrett, the hybrid safety who has been out with a foot injury, is back on the field and working toward playing in Saturday's opener against Washington State. He missed a week-and-a-half before returning late last week.
"He looked like the old Justin. He's made some plays, some of those explosive plays he's made in the past," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson on Sunday. "He physically looks like he's full speed, but we're trying to take a pitch-count approach on him and not strain it again."
That means Auburn is trying to play it smart, saving him for the game. Robenson Therezie has been getting plenty of practice time in his stead. Other reserves have seen plenty of practice time all around the defense.
Injuries have made that so.
The defensive line has been in flux since defensive end Dee Ford suffered a knee injury and a variety of defensive tackles have missed time as well. That's opened the door for true freshmen Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel and for junior LaDarius Owens, who has shuffled between defensive end and linebacker in his career.
He's a defensive end again and making a push.
"LaDarius Owens has had a real good two weeks," Johnson volunteered. "We moved him right before Dee got hurt, or right at the time, and he's been getting more and more reps."
Johnson has pressed forward without Ford in trying to establish a pass rush, something that will be needed Saturday against the pass-happy Cougars.
"It's definitely improved because everybody has had a chance to improve themselves," Johnson said. "These young guys are the biggest thing — Elijah and Carl have pass rush ability some of the other guys don't have. They've gotten a lot of work. They're making some mistakes, but they're going to have to play, and I think all this extra work has really helped them."
But will they play a lot?
"I don't know a lot," Johnson said. "A lot of that depends on how the whole complexion of the game goes, does anybody get hurt, what's the score, how many plays we're on the field defensively."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine