When Ted Roof was in Auburn finalizing his deal to be Gene Chizik’s defensive coordinator Tuesday, legendary Tigers coach Pat Dye dropped by.
The two reminisced about the good ol’ days, in the mid-1980s, when Auburn and Georgia Tech played every year. Roof, an All-ACC linebacker for the Yellow Jackets, doesn’t have many fond memories of those matchups.
“Back when they were running the (wishbone), they were the most physical football team that we played year-in and year-out,” Roof said. “When you got done playing Auburn, it felt like somebody had taken a rubber hose and just beat you with it. …
“As a football player you always respect the physical teams, the teams that hit you in the mouth.”
Roof sounds as though he wants to rekindle that defensive style of football at Auburn, where he is tasked with shoring up a defense that lost juniors Jerraud Powers and Sen’Derrick Marks, who declared for the NFL draft.
During a Wednesday teleconference with reporters, Roof espoused the importance of stopping the run first, preaching assertiveness.
“What you 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,” he said.
Roof’s defenses have had a knack for forcing turnovers.
Last season, in his only year with Minnesota, the Gophers forced 31 turnovers, second-most in the Big Ten and 11th nationally.
Minnesota made the jump from last among 119 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision to 79th in total defense.
“You’re only going to be as good as your base defense and your fundamentals allow you to be,” Roof said, “because, when you get in that thunderstorm, you’ve got to have a place you call home.
“Your base defense and playing fundamental football, just getting off blocks and tackling and pursuit angles, all the things that seem so elementary to some people, are really the differences between winning and losing.”
Despite saying he and Roof think alike, Chizik had no working relationship with the former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator and Duke head coach. Chizik said he knew of Roof’s reputation from being in football coaching circles.
Chizik contacted Minnesota coach Tim Brewster after the Gophers returned from their 42-21 New Year’s Eve loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl, asking for permission to speak with Roof. Chizik and Roof spoke the next day before meeting Monday.
Roof said it will be a plus to work on the staff of a coach such as Chizik, who has a defensive background.
Roof didn’t mention adding defensive assistants. He said Chizik will make those decisions. James Willis, who was retained from Tommy Tuberville’s staff, is the only defensive assistant. Although he coached linebackers last season, his role still is undefined.
Roof was not sure whether he would have positional duties in addition to his coordinator job.
He starts today.
“Auburn University football is a wonderful product,” he said. “And it’s one that I look forward to jumping right into the middle of and getting going.”