Will Muschamp is ready to go, again, as Auburn's defensive coordinator
By Charles Goldberg
ATLANTA, Ga. — He's on Auburn billboards and the media guide and posters, though he hasn't coached a down at Auburn since 2007.
Who is this Will Muschamp and why is getting such treatment?
He's Auburn's new defensive coordinator, of course, and the guy Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn says can turn around the Tigers' defense. Muschamp has the resume to build such confidence. Auburn fans remember the last time he was at Auburn as defensive coordinator, helping the Tigers play tough defense in 2006 and 2007, when Auburn was among the best nationally in scoring defense. His defenses at Auburn and LSU were ranked in the Top 10 nationally, and his defenses were ranked in the Top 10 the last four seasons at Florida.
Muschamp shrugs off his new attention heading into Saturday's 2:30 p.m. season-opener against Louisville in the Georgia Dome.
"That's not pressure on me. I put more pressure on myself than anyone."
Muschamp brought his patented enthusiasm to the field in spring practice where he knew he had work to do after Auburn's defense finished 68th nationally last season His coaching playbook stretched the covers as the season approached, then was cut back, but a lot of his work with his players has been done outside of that book, anyway.
"We're changing the culture a little bit to get back to Auburn defense," he said. "At the end of the day, that's what this place was founded on… playing good defense and understanding that. Coach Malzahn always talks to our players about the standard. We've talked to our players about the defensive standard here at Auburn, and understanding with where we're going to go with that."
Muschamp said Auburn's change in attitude begins on the practice field. Linebacker Justin Garrett says he feels it.
"Hands on, energetic. Just a great coach," Garrett said. "He's hard on you, but that's just because he expects more out of you. If he's being hard on you, being how he is, you have to appreciate that because he's really teaching you and he wants you to be better on and off the football field as a man. He wants you to hold responsibility on and off the football field."
"His difference," said defenisve lineman Montravius Adams, "is that everybody is going to be ready and we're going to be a top team. Everybody believes that it will be something special."
"He's extremely demanding," said linebacker Kris Frost, "and his expectations are higher from what he expects from us, which is a great thing."
Muschamp has experience to work with across the defensive line, certainly at linebacker and even in the secondary where he'll try to build depth. When asked, it has been Malzahn who has pointed to the return of Carl Lawson to provide some fire to the defensive line and his stand-up Buck position and to bring a pass rush that the head coach was missing last year.
Muschamp can quickly tick off other names that will fit in, too.
"I feel good about our front seven, when you talk about a combination of Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams, Devaroe Lawrence, Dontavius Russell, Maurice Swain, Andrew Williams, DaVonte Lambert," Muschamp said.
The linebacker spots are overflowing with experience, with the return of Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost, who were second and third in tackles last year, plus Justin Garrett and Tre' Williams.
"Those are guys who have played very good football, and understand what it takes to be successful," Muschamp said.
Auburn returns experienced Josh Holsey, Jonathan Jones and Rudy Ford to the secondary, but "we don't have as much depth as we'd like right now." Georgia transfer Tray Matthews top the depth chart at one safety spot. Michigan senior transfer Blake Countess will start, as he did 30 times for the Wolverines.
"Blake Countess was a huge get for us in the offseason as far as getting a guy with experience," Muschamp said.
Newcomers Carlton Davis, Jeremiah Denson, Javaris Davis and Tim Irvin are among the eight true freshmen Muschamp said could play on defense.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine