Justin Garrett, center, gets a hug from Tray Matthews, left, and Carlton Davis after a defensive touchdown in the season-opener
By Charles Goldberg
LEXINGTON, Ky. ― Justin Garrett says he's comfortable at his linebacker spot, Tre' Williams is coming back from injury and Cassanova McKinzy has a chance to make plays at his new position.
Auburn is hoping its sometimes-new defensive setup will pay dividends when the Tigers meet Kentucky at 6 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.
Some of the marching orders from defensive coordinator Will Muschamp are simple.
"Coach really talked about being more physical, being a more physical defense on the perimeter and in the front seven," Garrett said.
Some of it is to know your opponent, and both Muschamp and Garrett says the defense has to be prepared for Kentucky's fast passing game.
"It's going to be all about stopping the quick game and stopping the receivers and running backs on the perimeter," Garrett said.
Auburn is 3-2. Kentucky is 4-1. The Tigers' last appearance in Commonwealth Stadium was in 2010 when Auburn won a last-play field goal on the way to the national championship.
Williams, who won a starting linebacker job and then suffered an injury, is expected back. Garrett is sure to be there. McKinzy, in at least this game, will likely play the Buck position after moving over from linebacker. The Buck position was supposed to be Carl Lawson's domain, but an injury knocked him out of the first half of the first game, and is return is down the road.
“That's tremendous," Garrett said. "He's just a great pass rusher. He'll do anything Coach says. It's great that he took a step down and went to play the Buck position, he has been playing linebacker his whole life.”
"He's a guy," Muschamp said, "who can win in the one-on-one. We desperately need that. It's hard on him, because from an assignment standpoint, there's a lot on his plate, but he's a senior and has played a lot of football.
"Going into the last ball game I knew there would be some deficiencies at the position because of the lack of experience and the lack of playing there. But you take the risk and the reward that he made more plays than we would have without him. So are there are some things we need to clear up? Absolutely. But he's been willing and has worked his butt off to make sure we move forward in a very positive direction. I've been very pleased with what he's done."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine