VanGorder intensity is what AU Defense Needs by Andy Graham
August 10, 2012Sportz Blitz
First of all, let me say what a challenge it was to tear myself away from watching the Olympics just so I could write this column. For whatever reason, I’ve seen more of the Olympic Games in 2012 than I have in any other previous year. I’ve become obsessed with volleyball and no, it has nothing to do with tall, extremely fit scantily clad women. Well…. it might have a little something to do with that, but I love it all. I can’t get enough of the team variety on the hard courts (men’s or women’s) and I’ve also seen practically every beach volleyball match involving Americans (men’s and women’s). If you throw in all the track and field, swimming and women’s soccer, I’ve had a very enjoyable week. It’s been a nice little warm-up to percolate my intensity as we move toward September 1st.
Speaking of intensity, the Auburn defense was grossly deficient in that area (among others) in 2011. In fact, that aspect has been missing for quite a while now. It’s true, the 2010 defense had star power and statistically led the league in rush defense, but it could not by any means be considered a great defense. Great defenses don’t give up 26 points to Arkansas State or 24 points to Chattanooga. It also surrendered 108 points combined to Kentucky, Arkansas and Ole Miss. I suppose the last good overall defense the Tigers had was in 2008. It was the year they beat Mississippi State 3-2. Unfortunately, the offense was so horrific that year; the defense had no chance to excel.
College football teams tend to take on the personality of their coaches and more specifically to the offensive and defensive coordinators. I think Ted Roof is a swell guy and have heard from multiple sources that he is an extremely affable individual. He may be too nice to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC, because Auburn continually played soft during his tenure with lousy results. Schemes do matter and Roof’s “read and react” philosophy won’t be missed, but real SEC defense can only be played effectively with an intense aggressive physicality. Ted Roof just never had it, but thankfully new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has more than enough to go around.
I saw some video last week of the first day of practice and VanGorder was already tearing into linebacker Jake Holland for not being lined up properly. It was a sight for sore eyes. In my opinion, the Tiger defense hasn’t had near enough fire and brimstone tossed its way for the last three years. Brian VanGorder sent a message very early on that a new day has dawned. His intensity and fire are exactly what the Auburn defense needs to vastly improve on last year’s woeful statistics. One player even said that VanGorder told them in a team meeting he was about to raise his level of intensity. This meeting took place after the first day of practice by the way. I have a feeling Jake Holland and the rest of the guys have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I, for one, can’t wait to see the results.
Graham is a columnist for Sportz Blitz.