Oct. 31, 2013
Gabe Wright says Auburn defensive line will be ready for Arkansas’ running game (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – The transition wasn’t easy. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner was loud. He was demanding. It was unlike anything Auburn’s defensive linemen had experienced before.
Eight games into the season, they understand.
“The level of intensity to Coach G brings, we haven’t met that peak, but just to see guys work to get themselves better, it’s are honor to be part of it,” junior defensive tackle Gabe Wright said. “It’s always fun when you are winning. Having the record we have now, we couldn’t ask for a better blessing. Our mindset each week is to get better.”
Garner, a former All-Southeastern Conference Auburn offensive lineman, left Georgia to join first-year head coach Gus Malzahn's staff. And it didn't like him to make an impact.
The No. 11 Tigers (7-1, 3-1) go on the road Saturday to play Arkansas (3-5, 0-3). It will be a serious test for Garner’s men. The Razorbacks average 209.9 yards per game on the ground. They thrive on the power running game, led by freshman tailback Alex Collins with 797 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries.
“We’ve had games where guys kind of did smoke and mirrors, games where guys spread it out and sped it up,” Wright said. “This is a game where we can do what we do best. This is what all those two-a-days and hookups have been for. It’s a chance to go out and show just how physical we really are.”
Arkansas’ offensive mindset is not unlike LSU’s. On Sept. 21 in Baton Rouge, the Tigers struggled to stop LSU’s running game in the first half. They fell behind 21-0 and never caught up in falling for the only time this season.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says the issues at LSU were about run fits and schemes, not about being physically dominated.
“LSU is about as close to Arkansas’ identity as anybody,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing that hurt us there was we just got out of position. We left some gaps open and they did a good job of hitting them. It was more X’s and O’s and not being in the right place at the right time than it was not being physical.”
Wright said Auburn players have spent this week preparing to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Garner has made sure of it.
“I like to be gassed up, so I appreciate that Coach G stays on me,” Wright said. “We are all freshmen to Coach G in a sense because this is his first year coaching us. Seven or eight games in, we’ve definitely gotten used to it.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: