Ellis Johnson frustrated by injuries, other issues hampering defensive depth

rblack@ledger-April 15, 2014 

Auburn Football

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson has rarely had his full complement of players to work with since spring practice started last month.

TODD J. VAN EMST — Auburn University

AUBURN, Ala.Ellis Johnson has had to make do with what he has this spring.

Thanks to injuries and other issues, Auburn’s defensive coordinator has rarely had his full complement of players handy.

“We've had a lot more nagging injuries this year than we did last year, and we've had some guys we really felt we needed to be a little cautious with in certain drills,” he said Tuesday following the Tigers’ 13th practice of the spring. “I don't think we've had nearly as physical and probably as full of a spring as we would have liked to. … We had probably about a dozen guys that either missed all of spring practice or a great portion of spring practice, and they were guys that really had a legitimate shot to jump into the two-deep battle. And that's frustrating when you don't get to work with those guys, and I know it's frustrating for them, too.”

The list runs the gamut.

Defensive end LaDarius Owens (ankle), linebackers Anthony Swain (undisclosed off-field issue) and JaViere Mitchell (foot) and safety Josh Holsey (ACL) have yet to participate in a practice this spring. Defensive linemen Keymiya Harrell (knee), Tyler Nero (concussion), JaBrian Niles (undisclosed off-field issue) and linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (hip and tailbone) have had to miss multiple sessions. And then there are defensive end Elijah Daniel (groin), defensive back T.J. Davis (hamstring) and Star Robenson Therezie (hand), who have been able to take part in most practices, but only in a limited capacity.

Even with all the absences, Johnson was able to find a silver lining.

“When you've got players that you trust and you believe they know what they're doing, you don't have to rep them in certain situations because you want to be smart. That's a good thing,” he said. “… It's just that several guys that really needed those opportunities that couldn't get in there.”

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