AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn's first game with Will Muschamp leading the defense is still five months away. And entering Saturday, Auburn has had just seven practices under Muschamp. But the Tigers' defenders are apparently quick learners.
In the team's first scrimmage this spring, coach Gus Malzahn said the defense "got the best" of the offense.
"There were probably more hits today than any of the scrimmages that we've had since we've been back," Malzahn said in a post-practice interview Saturday "That was definitely a bright spot with a lot of energy."
In the scrimmage — which Malzahn said consisted of "about 90 plays" — the Tigers also made sure to take time to focus on special teams, which included live punt returns and was highlighted by a 57-yard field goal courtesy of Daniel Carlson.
But time and again, the topic turned to the play of Muschamp's unit.
"I was very excited with their defense, with their intensity. They were flying around, they were having fun out there," Malzahn said. "Like I said, there were some impact hits — I like to say 'momentum hits' that the whole sideline gets excited on."
According to teammates, one of the biggest hits came from rising sophomore linebacker Tre' Williams. Beyond that, the defense had its share of success against the Tigers' quarterbacks, intercepting at least three passes, including one each from cornerback Kamryn Melton and safety Johnathan "Rudy" Ford.
To safety Tray Matthews, it was merely proof of how much of a difference Muschamp has already made.
"The intensity is coming along. Muschamp emphasizes running to the ball," he said. "I've seen our defensive linemen, they rush the quarterback and they’ll stick their foot in the ground and run back and try to tackle the running back or receiver all the way down the field. That’s what he emphasizes all the time."
And Matthews agreed with Malzahn: the defense "won" the day.
"We had a couple of good hits throughout the whole scrimmage," he said. "Everybody wants to make their name known. That’s a great thing when you see everybody flying to the ball.”