True freshman Jeff Holland was happy to play, and get the win, for Auburn last Saturday
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― When your number is called, Will Muschamp was saying, you better be ready to go.
"Peyton Barber," he said, "was ready to go."
Muschamp, Auburn's defensive coordinator, used the Auburn running back as Exhibit A for his defense on Sunday night, reminding all of them they could play any time, just as Barber was, quite suddenly, thrust into a primary role in the Tigers' win over Louisville last Saturday.
"You never know when your number is getting called, but if it is called, you make sure you're getting prepared and that you’re ready to perform at a high level… championship level is our expectations here at Auburn," Muschamp said.
The message had to hit home for his defense that wasn't afraid to play freshmen in the 31-24 win, and for a team that will play them again when Auburn plays Jacksonville State at 11 a.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn played seven true freshman who are listed on defense. One true freshman, Tim Irvin, started. Two transfers started for Muschamp as well.
"We tell our guys all the time as far as, be prepared to go in the game. And it's not just lip service here. It's real," Muschamp said. "That's where we are. But I've got confidence in those guys to play well."
A recount shows 21 players appeared in their first Auburn game, including five on defense. Other first-time Tigers got in soon enough.
"They knew going in the game they were playing, and they all played very meaningful snaps," Muschamp said. "They'll continue to improve. They're improving every day.
"I've been very pleased with their attitude and their effort and their approach to coming into meeting and walkthroughs and practice. The attitude has been phenomenal, so the guys are working hard and they’re doing everything they've got to do to try to be successful."
Auburn's secondary included a variety of first-time players.
"I'm really proud of them, going into that environment. They got welcomed very quickly to Auburn in Tiger Walk and going into the stadium. It was interesting to see their faces walking out of that and understanding what it’s about and being in that environment in that type of game against a good offensive football team," Muschamp said.
"I'm extremely pleased with those young men. They all played upwards of 20, 25, 30 snaps in the game and they were productive players. We would have liked to have had a couple plays back here and there? Certainly. There’s nobody who has played in their first college football game who wouldn’t want to have one or two snaps back. So when you walk out feeling that good about it and also how they progressed in Sunday night’s practice and Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s practice, and I’m sure they’ll get better again tomorrow. They all are very willing participants as far as learning and practicing hard and doing the things you have to do to be a good football player."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine