Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele relies on plenty of metaphors in his weekly press conferences.
Steele’s folksy way of breaking down his defense was on display Sunday night when he addressed his expectations for this week.
“We have to develop more of a sense of urgency on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to sharpen the axe so that when we do go to chop down the tree we’re not just knocking off the bark and bruising the tree and getting real tired,” Steele said. “We’ve got to get that done.”
The not quite sharp enough axe got mixed reviews from Steele for its performance against Texas A&M with the burnt of the defensive coordinator’s criticism centered on the number of missed tackles.
“I'm speaking for the whole defense -- we missed way too many tackles,” Steele said. “We cannot play like that. We're going to get that corrected immediately. It's unacceptable.”
While there were plenty of positives Steele pointed out — holding A&M to 2 of 15 on third downs, getting in quarterback Trevor Knight’s face and the performance in the red zone — but there were equally as many negatives.
The lack of turnovers is particularly concerning.
“That is a discussion that was had today -- both by the staff and in the defensive room,” Steele said. “It is something ... we've got to create more turnovers. They're not going to give it to you. You've got to be in the right place at the right time -- but you've got to go with the mentality to make that happen.”
Auburn has forced three turnovers through three games (two interceptions, one fumble). Auburn defenders have failed to recover two of the three fumbles they have forced.
Steele hopes the corrections can help the entire team improve.
While the offense put the defense in some tough situations Saturday night, Steele made it clear with another extended metaphor excuses won’t be tolerated in the defensive meeting room.
If Auburn’s offense goes through a prolonged slump like it did Saturday — punting on all five of its third quarter possessions — it’s up to the defense to get the team back on track.
“Part of the process that we've tried to establish from the very beginning is if we were firemen, our job isn't to worry about who started the fire,” Steele said. “It isn't how long it's been burning. It's to put the fire out. We really have to focus on that and it has to be that kind of mentality and we have to develop that kind of mentality.”