Jonathan Jones makes the play for Auburn in the 2013 SEC Championship Game
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — No game this Saturday, but, oh, next week will be much different for Auburn.
The Tigers open the season Sept. 5 against Louisville in the Georgia Dome amid much fanfare, in the form of a Top 10 national ranking, a prediction it will win the Southeastern Conference and a feeling the defense will be much improved now that coordinator Will Muschamp has come on board.
"As a team -- as a defense, especially being on that side of the ball -- I feel good about the improvements we made in camp," said defensive back Jonathan Jones. "I feel good about where we're at heading into game week."
Auburn is off this Saturday, but will return to the practice field Sunday, ready to begin normal game-week preparation after getting a sneak-peek of Louisville in three practice sessions this week.
"I know next week it will be straight Louisville, but it's been exciting to go against somebody else's looks instead of our offense, getting into some of their formation and their looks," Jones said.
Muschamp has brought a more physical style to practice and has created an atmosphere that has helped create more comradery.
"I think as far as chemistry, especially off the field, guys get along and are hanging out more, and that plays a part on the field," Jones said. "You're lining up with someone you have to trust to be there when you need them, and that's a big deal. This team right now has a lot of chemistry and a lot of trust heading into the season, and we need to maintain that."
Jones said the teamwork reminds him of 2013 when Auburn played in the national championship game.
"When we first moved into the dorms in 2013, everybody was around each other a lot, and this year you get that same feeling going through camp. Guys are talking more, being more social and whatnot. We're jelling together as a team," he said.
Jones knows the routine. He's on the watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Jim Thorpe Award and the Lott IMPACT Trophy. His six interceptions last season top all returning SEC players.
His new friends in the secondary includes Michigan transfer Blake Countess, who is eligible immediately this season as a senior who transferred with his undergraduate degree; and Tray Matthews, the Georgia transfer who sat out last season.
Joining them will be Auburn veterans in Jonathan Ford, who had a team-best 93 tackles last season; Josh Holsey, who had 41 tackles; and Nick Ruffin, who will have a bigger role in his sophomore season. Freshman Tim Irvin figures to get playing time at safety. Fellow freshmen Jeremiah Dinson and Carlton Davis are also in the secondary mix.
Countess can play cornerback and safety, and can play in nickel package and the obvious-passing-down dime package.
"We've still got some little things to iron out as far as in the game plan," Countess said, "but as far as from a development standpoint, I think we're ready to play."
Holsey also has the versatility to play a variety of positions in the secondary.
Jones knows the defensive marching orders after spending the last nine months with Muschamp.
"I expect us to play physical. Physical and fast, honestly... not to be cliché. That's the motivation. There are always going to be mistakes in the first game. You want to limit the first tackles and things like that, and the explosive plays."
— AuburnPix (@AuburnPix) August 29, 2015
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine