By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Kevin Steele knows what LSU will bring to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. He was the Bengal Tigers' defensive coordinator last season, knows their players, understand the SEC.
He helped LSU beat Auburn. Now, he'll try to turn the tables.
Steele, now Auburn's defensive coordinator, will have the assignment of trying to slow running back Leonard Fournette, see his defense continue to improve and come up with a plan against a nationally ranked team for the third time in four games when LSU visits the Tigers.
Sunday, Steele shrugged off his connection with LSU. The focus, he said, is on Auburn. Besides, he's coached against some of his former teams before.
"I've got a couple of more times of experience with it than most. I've done it before and, quite frankly, it really has very little effect on it," he said.
The bigger picture, he said, is not his coaching past. It's Auburn now.
"We're in a process of creating a mentality and creating an identity. We can't be focused on who's across the line of scrimmage," Steele said. "You can't get into that. If you do that then this week they decide in their head that 'this guy is this' and 'that guy is that'. You can't do that. It's about us. It's about developing a mentality through a process of work in which we do our job each and every snap a certain way, with a certain mentality. If you do that, that's all you can ask of somebody."
Auburn was good at that against Texas A&M last Saturday when the Aggies converted only two of 15 third-down conversions. Most times than not, Auburn forced field goals in the red zone. But a late A&M touchdown helped push the final score to 29-16 Aggies, and that wasn't good enough for Steele.
Still, Auburn's defense gave the Tigers a chance to win, with Steele saying there were "some very positive" aspects to the defensive play. He said A&M's low third-down conversion rate stood out as well as forcing field goals, and not allowing touchdowns, when the Aggies got close.
"I think it does show that we'e starting to develop the fighting spirit," he said
Steele said A&M called 47 pass plays. Some passes never got off, but the Aggies still completed 20 of them, though averaged a modest 5.5 yards per pass play called.
"That's a good number. We're making some progress in that regard."
He said the run defense wasn't as good. "We have to develop more of a sense of urgency to on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.
"We're making progress, but we've got a long way to go. It is a work in progress, but I think probably the thing is that their attitude and has been and is very good. As long as we've got that as coaches we’ve got to help them get better."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine