Auburn football: Ellis Johnson discusses rash of injuries to Tiger defenders

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 27, 2014 

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has been thrilled with the retention his players have shown since fall camp began Friday.

TODD VAN EMST — Auburn University

AUBURN, Ala. — Injuries are starting to pile up on Auburn's defense.

In his first meeting with media members this spring, defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson revealed that at least six members of his unit are less than 100 percent right now: defensive ends LaDarius Owens and Elijah Daniel, linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and JaViere Mitchell, Star Robenson Therezie and safety Josh Holsey.

Johnson set the record straight on Therezie's ailment; when the senior himself discussed it Tuesday, he said it was simply a jammed finger. According to Johnson, it was a bit more severe than that, saying Therezie broke his left hand.

Regardless, Therezie has yet to miss any time.

"He's out there practicing right now," Johnson said. "We know what he can do, so we kind of baby him a little bit with the number of reps and the type of drills to take care of that banged-up hand."

Both Owens and Mitchell are dealing with what Johnson called "breaks in their foot." The pair will remain sidelined until fall camp arrives.

"They will not practice, period," Johnson said. "... Those breaks in their foot are too close to the season, so they won't be back."

Holsey has been out since October after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament prior to Auburn's game against Texas A&M. If the Tigers had to, Johnson said Holsey could be practicing without limitation. However, the coaching staff has instead decided to err on the side of caution. Holsey has taken part in some 1-on-1 drills and other non-contact sessions, but otherwise the Tigers haven't tried to rush him back.

Whenever they need him, Holsey can spring into action.

"If we were getting ready to line up and play next week against Arkansas, he'd be ready to go," Johnson said. "He's been playing, he's got two years under his belt, one year under our system, we know what he can do."

Similarly, McKinzy's abilities aren't in question at this point. After all, he was the team's leading tackler last season, registering 75 takedowns. While Johnson didn't say when the injury occurred, he said McKinzy has been bothered by a bruised hip.

"He has not been practicing very much," Johnson said. "The three days he was healthy and full-speed out there, he had some really good practices."

Johnson said Daniel suffered a groin injury on the first drill on the opening day of spring practice.

His return has yet to be determined.

"We're hoping to get Elijah back," Johnson said, "but groins can be funny."

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