Auburn's Justin Garrett says he's telling young Tigers to adjust to change
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Justin Garrett, who graduated with his master's degree Saturday, is offering some scholarly advice for Auburn's young defense. He's telling them how to deal with change and how to deal with the departure of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
"Just stay positive and learn how to adjust. That's how life is. You got to deal with adverse situations and you never know what can happen," Garrett said. "Doing things like that, it's building character. You don't play for your coach, you play for your teammates and you play for AU. That's what I keep trying to tell the young guys: 'just stay positive and everything will work itself out.'"
Garrett and Auburn completed their fourth practice Thursday for the Dec. 29 Birmingham Bowl against Memphis. Lance Thompson will make the defensive calls in Muschamp's stead.
Garrett says he can still hear Muschamp to this day. "You know when you messed up, in the back of your head, you could just envision him coming at you real hard."
Garrett said practice is "little different" now, but at the end of the day, "it's just football."
"We're not changing anything, even though Muschamp is gone," he said. "We're preaching that to the young guys. We're still going to go ahead and attack practice every day. We're still going to battle for positions. If the next man is doing better than me, I'm going to let him know and tell him to stay in the game, but we're still going to battle every day. Even though he left, I feel like he instilled so much into us that we should be accountable for our own self. We don't need another coach to try to push us; we should want to push each other on our own.
"If you love football, you want to play. A coach leaving, or a coaching coming in, shouldn't change that. That's what I want to tell all the young guys: Just keep having fun, keeping doing what we've been doing. Don't decline, don't go downhill just because a coach left."
Garrett said Auburn's next defensive coordinator has not been a big topic.
"We really just want to go out there and play football," he said. "We trust Coach Malzahn to hire the best guy.
"Whoever Coach Malzahn brings in, I trust he'll get those young guys right, and ready to see Auburn defense take that next step next year."
Garrett has been with four defensive coordinators and been ticketed for various positions. Muschamp moved him to middle linebacker for his senior season.
"I feel like it put a lot of accountability on me, so I took it personally to make sure I did everything right and stayed in my playbook and put in extra hours after practice to get better," Garrett said. "He taught me all the fundamentals and all the techniques I needed to do so all I had to do was go out there and play football and it's been a good transition for me to play middle linebacker."
Garrett, whose undergraduate degree is in interdisciplinary studies and has a master's in adult education, said he'll begin training for a shot at the NFL after the bowl game. If that doesn't work out, he said, he'll "put these degrees to work and get a job.
"I want to work in sales and marketing, or get into coaching or teaching. Anything, just provide for my family."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine