AUBURN, Ala. — Last spring, Ellis Johnson’s main objective was installing his 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
One year later, he’s moved to the next step: evaluating personnel. Auburn’s defensive coordinator wants to make sure he puts “people in the right place” as well as identify those who weren’t of much use last season, regardless of the reason — inexperience was viewed the same as an injury.
It’s a slow process, yes, but the Tigers have nothing but time.
“We still got a long way to go, both from the standpoint of our improvement and from the standpoint of number of practices,” he said. “We do have a few guys making some positive steps, but right now we still have long way to and a lot of time for guys to make those moves.”
It might have happened sooner, Johnson said. For that, he blames himself. If there’s one thing he did wrong last year, Johnson believed he may have thrown too much at his players too quickly.
Johnson assured he won’t make the same mistake twice.
“This year, really, what we've been able to do is almost the reverse of that,” he said. “We know our personnel better, and we know what we can do, and what we can be really good at, and what we don't need to be foolin' with. Frankly, at this stage of installation and putting in schemes, we've done less this year than last year.”
With the core concepts in place, Johnson said another goal for the spring is to play faster. This isn't only for the unit’s own benefit; it’s out of necessity. Given the propensity of up-tempo offenses in college football, it’s a challenge to avoid getting caught out of place.
If nothing else, Johnson is thankful he gets to practice against the Tigers’ hurry-up, no-huddle offense every day.
“I’ve been places where we didn’t run a tempo offense and that makes it very difficult,” he said. “Now, we do play some teams that go faster than we do, some of them just have that philosophy. Texas A&M was, Ole Miss was, Missouri was. There were some teams, they don’t do as much when they go fast, so they can obviously repeat plays and do it a little bit faster. But that’s one of the things we’re hoping to get a little bit cleaner on.”