Oct. 5, 2013
Auburn's Chris Davis has Sammie Coates in practice earlier this year (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. – Gus Malzahn said Auburn's secondary was "scary" thin when it played its last game, but the possible return of starter Chris Davis and Jonathan Jones tonight against Ole Miss should help ease fears.
Davis hasn't played since the second game of the season with a leg injury and Jones hasn't played this season since hurting his foot before the first game. The relief doesn't stop there. Defensive lineman Craig Sanders who missed the last game with an ankle injury could be available, and a shake-up of the depth chart, notably Nosa Eguae moving to defensive tackle, gives Auburn a fresh start.
Auburn and Ole Miss are both 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the Southeastern Conference heading into the 6 p.m. game in Jordan-Hare Stadium and on ESPNU.
None of the injured players is on this week's depth chart. But the possible return of Davis, who received preseason accolades, is significant.
"Chris is a leader. Whenever Chris is on the field, you get an extra spark on that island over there," said fellow defensive back Josh Holsey. "You know that teams really don’t like to throw his way because he’s really a lockdown corner. With him coming back, I’m sure it’s going to give the defense a little more motivation. And with him being back, that leadership.
"Seeing them back in action after missing a couple of weeks is really good. Jonathan’s doing really well...they’re doing really well now.
"Craig is a big special teams player for us, too. Seeing them back really just boost that confidence on the defense to keep striving to do better and better."
The injury report is good, but some players are still hurt. Defensive lineman Jeff Whitaker hasn't played all year. Others are still slowed with injuries.
Still, Holsey is welcoming back those who can play.
"We know we’ve been doing well as a defense, but we really haven’t really played a whole game with our whole defense really here," he said.
Holsey has been playing the whole way – at a new position. He's a safety who used to play cornerback.
"I feel I’m doing well, but always room for improvement," he said. "I'm learning as I go from mistakes, little mistakes, doing the things that I do well. I feel as a unit we’re doing good.
"We’re doing a lot better than we did last year. We just got to keep improving each and every week."
Better than last year, but Auburn is still 13th in total defense, 12th in passing efficiency and tied for 11th in scoring defense in the SEC.
"It gives us a lot of motivation," Holsey said. "We figure we're doing well, but obviously we're not doing as well as we really think we are. We really take pride in stopping all the deep balls and making sure we don't let teams come in and just throw the ball around and get in the end zone as they did in previous years. We really take pride in it.
"We're going to fix everything we're doing. We're going to strive each and every day to make sure we get that cut down so we can at least be Top 5 in passing efficiency and that's going to start with the corners and the safeties."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine