AUBURN, Ala. — It hasn't taken long for Ellis Johnson to notice how locked-in his unit has been since fall camp began.
Auburn's defensive coordinator, who met with media members Sunday night following the Tigers' third practice of fall camp, was pleased to note the "excellent retention and carry-over from our system in the spring." There has even been improvement from Practice 1 to Practice 3; on the first day of the preseason, Johnson didn't like what he saw.
"I thought the first practice, we had a couple of periods of lackadaisical focus, or we can call it 'loafing,' but I don't think there was the intensity that we're going to expect around here," he said, "and the last two practices, I think players understood that wasn't Auburn standard. It's been really good since then."
Defenders are still making mistakes, sure.
But Johnson can live with that.
"It's just amazing how far ahead we are from where we were about the same time last year as far as getting things done, not having repeated mistakes, and just kind of knowing how things fit together," he said. "We've been really pleased with that part of it."
Sunday, the Tigers had on "shells" — made up of shoulder pads and shorts — for the first time during the preseason. Johnson said it ran very much like an "NFL-type of practice."
"'Stay off the ground (no tackling to the ground), learn how to practice, learn how to compete, make your buddy better, but take care of him,'" said Johnson, trying to describe what that meant. "So we didn't tackle live or anything like that, but it obviously helps you to have uppers (pads and helmet) so you can have live blocking on the line of scrimmage, and you can have a little more physical confrontation out on the flanks with the start blocks and the receivers and the DBs."
Now, Johnson can't wait for Tuesday to arrive. That's when the Tigers will have on full pads, and with that, contact can ensue.
"I'm anxious to really get some full-speed tackling practice as soon as we can, because obviously that's very important," he said, "but it's that stage where we can't work on that part of it (yet)."