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Auburn defense catches its breath during bye week

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele calls plays during pregame warmups before facing LSU Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele calls plays during pregame warmups before facing LSU Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s defensive game plan for the bye week wasn’t very complicated.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele gave his players — especially veterans who have played the most snaps — time to heal up.

It meant for a less physical workweek for the Tigers as the defensive staff worked with players on many of the concepts they installed during fall camp.

“It got to get them fresh and healed up a little bit,” Steele said. “We also worked a lot of young guys. It was totally against no opponent. Just us getting better at technique, fundamentals, tackling, those kind of things. Understanding the concepts of what we are doing.”

Through six games Auburn’s defense has put some of the best numbers in more than a decade.

The Tigers rank 11th nationally in scoring defense (16 points), 30th in total defense (346 yards) and eighth in red zone defense (64 percent).

The defense has climbed the charts in recent weeks by holding teams to less than 11 points a game and 305 yards during a three-game win streak.

Steele brushed off concerns the break might rob the defense of the momentum it seemed to be building.

While Auburn’s defense has put together the best three-game stretch in recent memory, Steele stressed the importance of regrouping midway through the season.

“I think it was important for all of us to catch our breath,” Steele said. “There are a lot of hours spent in this building by players and coaches. I think if it’s used correctly you can make yourself a better football player and also get fresh.”

Steele spent more than 90 seconds of his 10 minutes at the podium Wednesday night describing in detail why he wasn’t concerned about his team’s energy and focus taking a hit Saturday against Arkansas

“Concern isn’t the right word,” Steele said. “I guess if I was running government I would have concerns about this happening and this. We aren’t running government, it’s just a football game. It’s about what we do. It still comes back get your hat in the gap, do it with physicality, do it with technique and fly your tail to the football.”

As he has done all season long, Steele prefers to keep his focus on the details he can control.

“We control what defense we call, what gap that our players have, what zone they have or what man they have, and how they play that,” Steel said. “When it’s in your control then concern is not an issue.”

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