Nov. 7, 2013
Auburn's Jonathon Mincy stands ready with Gus Malzahn Nelson Chenault/USA Today photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Jonathon Mincy figured Dee Ford would return from a late-game injury at Arkansas last Saturday, even after Mincy saw Ford being toted off the field by his teammates.
"Nobody," Mincy concluded, "is missing a game."
Sure enough, Ford was well enough for post-game interviews in Fayetteville and has returned to practice no worse for wear as Auburn prepares for Saturday's 11 a.m. at Tennessee.
Auburn, especially the defense, has battled through a series of injuries this season. The secondary has especially been hit, though Mincy, Robenson Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead have started every game back there, and the healthy on defense will press on.
Mincy has been busy. He leads the SEC in passes defended with 10 pass broken up and an interception on a defense that has defended the second-most passes in the Southeastern Conference.
"He's a competitor," said coach Gus Malzahn. "He's one of those guys that likes the ball being thrown at him and he's done well in practice, and it's carried over to games."
Mincy said his ball skills have "improved tremendously."
"That’s something I prided myself on this offseason, and that’s something when Coach (Melvin) Smith first got here was an area he felt I was very weak at. I just had to tighten up on my man coverage and really work on my technique," Mincy said.
Teammate Chris Davis is sixth in passes defended. Therezie is second in the league in interceptions with three, one off the lead. Davis, Mincy and Therezie are 1-2-3 in tackles for Auburn as well.
But some of those penciled in for work in the offseason have seen limited play. Spring star Justin Garrett has played only two games with a foot issues and is headed to a redshirt. Jonathan Jones has played four games after a preseason foot injury cost him time. Josh Holsey is gone because of a knee injury. Jonathan Ford played special teams at Arkansas after dealing with a family issue last week.
"We've gotten down where we've got about six to play four, those four deep guys," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.
Of those available to play, Johnson said Auburn's defense opened Tennessee practice with eight players nursing various injuries. Even Mincy left the Arkansas game with an injury, but returned. That was the theme there.
"They’re just like me, they don’t want to miss a game," Mincy said. "They’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure they’re on the field with us these upcoming Saturdays. Treatment is going to be real big with everybody. That’s something we’ve got to pride ourselves on, make sure we can do whatever we can to get close to 100 percent."
Jones was vying for a starting job before he was injured. He's played been in an on-again, off-again mode in four games. "He’s very eager to get on the field, and that’s something you want from one of your cornerback and one of my closest friends," Mincy said.
Mincy said Auburn stood with Ford as he dealt with his family issue.
"We were there for him, everybody just doing their jobs keeping a smile on his face. That’s good with us because we’re going to be here with him," Mincy said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine