AU defenders cite communication problems

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, September 24, 2008

AUBURN – Auburn’s defenders were left on the defensive after having trouble stopping LSU.

Defensive end Antonio Coleman and others felt No. 15 Auburn’s biggest issues stemmed from problems communicating and lining up wrong a number of times.

“I mean, it’s not really about us being pushed around,” Coleman said. “They had a good team, but LSU didn’t beat us. We beat ourselves. We go back and look at the film, we lined up wrong 90 percent of the time. There’s no excuse for that.”

For instance, Coleman said there were times when he was lined up outside of the tight end and there was a big gap from the center to the tackle.

“We were just discombobulated,” he said.

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said communication during home games can be difficult with all the crowd noise when the opposing offense is on the field. He said addressing that issue was one focal point this week.

Auburn allowed 398 yards, including 178 on the ground, in the 26-21 loss. Both were season highs. Cornerback Jerraud Powers echoed Coleman’s sentiment that the problems were mental not physical.

“We know when we line up and do things right, we’re a tough defense that’s fun to watch,” Powers said. “Now we know when we line up wrong, it’s going to be a dogfight. We’re still confident and we’ve still got the swagger.”

The Tigers even had confusion on what proved their biggest defensive play, Gabe McKenzie’s interception returned for a touchdown.

“Coach Rhoads didn’t give us a call yet,” McKenzie said. “They’re already snapping the ball and we’ve got 10 people on the field. (Mike) Blanc ran on the field at the last second.”


SPENCER FOR HIRE: Spencer Pybus was still waiting for scholarship offers when national signing day arrived.

Finally, Duke called with an offer and 10 minutes later Auburn followed suit. The longtime fan immediately chose the 15th-ranked Tigers, and he’s already playing a role as a freshman on both defense and special teams.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said the staff was finished signing linebackers but took a chance with Pybus, whose only pre-signing day offer came from Division II North Alabama.

“We knew that he’d be a good player and that we should take him and so that’s what we did,” Tuberville said.

Pybus was blitzing on a play that turned into the game-winning touchdown pass for LSU. He hit quarterback Jarrett Lee a split-second too late.

He said his status as an almost overlooked recruit has a benefit.

“A lot of people think I have something to prove,” Pybus said. “I don’t really have much to prove or anything to lose. I go out there and give it all I can every day. If I do good, it’s good. If I make a mistake, people expect me to make a mistake so I don’t really have anything to lose.”


IN THE BOX: Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin began calling plays from the press box against LSU, and that’s where he plans to stay.

“It’s easier to call plays from there,” said Franklin, who was on the sidelines for the first three games. “It’s easier to be a better play-caller from there. I’ve done it both ways. On the field, for me, has been a positive thing because of other issues that happen during a ballgame, but I felt like that I needed to do a much better job of calling plays.”

He relays the calls to the players through tight ends coach Steve Ensminger.

Quarterback Chris Todd sees some benefit to having his position coach/coordinator at a distance.

“Sometimes if he’s going to tell you something you need to do, you hear it through the headphones instead of face-to-face, so that might be a good thing,” Todd said.

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Franklin wanted to be able to make quicker playcalling decisions. He said the communication was much improved.

“He felt like it was time to go up and really be able to see the game where you can see it best and make the calls. I think it really helped us,” Tuberville said.