Roof recalls physical Auburn teams in playing days

Published 5:36 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

AUBURN — Ted Roof figures the philosophy for defending Southeastern Conference offenses is the same as when he was a Georgia Tech linebacker facing Auburn’s pounding attack.

Stop the run first.

“Even with the evolution of the throwing game, I think you’ve still got to be able to stop the run to win football games,” Roof, Auburn’s new defensive coordinator, said in a teleconference Wednesday. “I know that’s the truth in the SEC. What you’ve got to do is try to get people off kilter with going after folks and being aggressive and try to make teams one-dimensional so you can get creative on defense.”

The former Duke head coach will arrive in Auburn on Thursday needing to replace two defensive stars who opted to leave early for the NFL and welcoming back defensive end Antonio Coleman, who decided to return for his senior season.

“I think that it was huge for our defense that Antonio Coleman is coming back because he’s got a national reputation,” Roof said. “I’m excited about his future and it’s a big plus and a big boost for our defense to get him back.”

Gone, however, are defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks and cornerback Jerraud Powers, who announced his decision to exit earlier on the same day Roof was hired.

He spent last season turning around a woeful Minnesota defense. Minnesota improved 40 spots after being ranked 119th nationally — dead last — in total defense in 2007.

The Golden Gophers also rose from 116th to 24th in sacks and forced 31 turnovers, second in the Big Ten Conference and 11th nationally. They lost to Kansas 42-21 in the Insight Bowl.

“I was proud of the improvement,” Roof said. “We knew that for this particular football team we had to do a good job of creating takeaways and we did that. I think for about 10 weeks of the season, we led the country in that until we dropped off a bit at the end.”

Roof was a linebacker for Georgia Tech in the 1980s facing Pat Dye’s Auburn teams and has vivid memories of the Tigers’ style. He was in Chizik’s office when Dye wandered in Monday.

“I made this comment to Coach Dye that when you got done playing Auburn it felt like somebody had taken a rubber hose and beaten you with it,” he said. “As a football player, you always respect the physical teams, the teams that hit you in the mouth.

“When I think of Auburn, I think of physical football, tough and hard-nosed.”

Roof later became defensive coordinator at his alma mater. He was 6-45 as a head coach at Duke after taking over in 2003.

Roof is the sixth assistant hired by new Auburn coach Gene Chizik, a former defensive coordinator. Roof said he welcomes input on the defense from his new boss.

“Coach Chizik’s the head coach and he’s got the right to be involved in every aspect of the program, which most head coaches do and I’m sure he will as well,” he said. “I look at it as a real plus to have a guy with a defensive background that Gene has, and all his expertise that he brings to the staff and to the table. I’m looking forward to working for him.”