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Deep player rotation keeping Auburn defense fresh

Sept. 18, 2013

Auburn's Jake Holland, left, and Josh Holsey make the stop against Mississippi State (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. — The player rotation in the defensive line is big, linebackers are changing places and the defensive backs are able to catch their breaths. 

Auburn, which hasn't allowed a fourth-quarter point on the way to a 3-0 record, seems to be benefiting from a willingness to go deep on the depth chart. The Tigers have used 32 defensive players in the first three games. 

"Late in the game I can definitely notice a difference than the last couple of years," says linebacker Jake Holland. "We're just a lot fresher. We're able to run to the ball, gang tackle and more guys are getting to the ball so we're able to make better plays." 

That came into play in a big way in last Saturday's 24-20 comeback win over Mississippi State. The Bulldogs took the lead early in the third quarter, but managed, in their last five series, a modest 98 yards,  18 of which came on a no-chance last play of the game. The change in momentum allowed Auburn to pass State with just 10 seconds to play. 

When it was over, Holland and Ryan White were tied with a team-high eight tackles. Holland it called it a physical game because State wanted to run. He said he's expecting more of the same when Auburn visits LSU at 6:45 p.m. on ESPN. 

"It’s always a physical game. That’s what expect and what the mentality is going in this week," Holland said. 

LSU can run, but is also more comfortable with quarterback Zach Metterberger passing. 

"It is a threat, but they are still a run-focused team, so we’re going to prepare that way and prepare this week for that mainly. Every week is different so you just prepare that way," Holland said. 

Holland had to work extra hard in the first of the Mississippi State game. Kris Frost missed the first two quarters while serving a suspension for targeting in the game before. All the linebackers should be around this Saturday, including Justin Garrett, who was moved to Will linebacker from the Star safety position as he returned from a foot injury that cost him the first two games. 

The spring standout at Star remembered his old linebacker responsibilities. 

The linebacker corps, in general, has had different roles, especially from the first game to the third game. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson opted for more defensive backs against pass-happy Washington State, saw his three main linebackers combine for 19 tackles against Arkansas State and saw Holland share the tackle lead against Mississippi State. 

LSU can run and throw, so... Holland said he's hoping for another physical game. 

"That’s more of just football for me. I like the physical games. Sundays don’t feel as good afterwards, but that’s more my style," he said. 

Holland doesn't have to play most every snap anymore, but he did have to play a lot in the first half last week because Frost wasn't available. 

"I prepare every week like I’m going to play every snap. That’s what you have to do because you don’t know. Injuries can happen. That’s something I did prepare for so I wasn’t caught off-guard," he said. 

But the plan is for all the defensive players to get a breather, and the benefits are obvious. 

"My body feels great. My legs, they’re not tired as I go through the game. I’m able to play fast and make plays," Holland said.

Video: Jake Holland on the defense

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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