Rudy Ford is ready to go in Auburn's secondary... and on the kickoff return team
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Rudy Ford is going to get to run with a football again, and that's a good thing for Auburn's leading tackler ― yes, leading tackler from last season ― who has won a spot on the Tigers' kickoff return team.
"He's worked very hard in that area. I'm very proud of Rudy. And he's done a super job off the field, too," says coach Gus Malzahn.
Rudy Ford comes to the position as a starting safety as a team guy who made the move to defensive back after moving past his signing day bio that said he was the top high school running back in Alabama, according to Rivals; and his cameo appearance as an Auburn tailback in 2013 when he ripped off 73 yards on just six carries. Ford solidified his position as a defensive back last season, leading Auburn with 93 tackles and finishing with three interceptions, tied for the second most on the team.
"Rudy has turned into one of our better players overall," Malzahn said. "He's more confident in his second year playing on the back end. He's very good tackler. He's one of our fastest players."
He'll get a chance to show that speed in Saturday's season-opener against Lousiville at 2:30 p.m. in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
Ford returned one kickoff return last season, and had more yards on his three interceptions. But he's a defensive back first and foremost, and he'll be a familiar face in a new secondary that features veterans, transfers and true freshmen.
Rudy Ford, former running back, can now play the role as a leader as well.
"The guys are reacting great," Ford says. "I'm taking on a big role, making checks and all that. Guys are responding really well."
Ford, Jonathan Jones and Josh Holsey are the Auburn veterans in the secondary on the depth chart. Blake Countess from Michigan and Tray Matthews from Georgia are the transfers. Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said this week that true freshmen Carlton Davis, Jeremiah Dinson, Tim Irvin, Javaris Davis and Montavious Atkinson could all play against Louisville.
"All those guys, they come here, responded well straight out of high school. They’re doing some great things out there," Ford said.
Ford's veteran advice to the rookies is "just keep them calm."
"As long as they have confidence in themselves, and they stay calm, they can go out there and make plays and get adjusted to everything."
They'll be part of the Muschamp mix.
"Jonathan Jones and Blake Countess are two very experienced guys, Josh Holsey as well," Muschamp said. "Those are three guys that have played on the perimeter and done a really nice job. Tray Matthews has played a lot before and has game experience, and Rudy Ford. We've got a good combination of older players that have been through the preparations of game week and they've really been a calming factor for the young players. Those kids will play well."
Ford says he likes the new defense and appreciates Muschamp's fiery drive.
"He wants the best out of us and… that’s what we’re going to give him," Ford said. "You come to come to work every day, every day of practice, no days off. You got to be locked in, tuned in. If you’re not locked in, tuned in you’re going to hear about it from him.
"We see Coach Muschamp is going to be Coach Muschamp. That's what we're going to get. Whatever he gives us, we're going to respond well to him as a team, as a defensive unit."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine