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Muschamp: ‘Talented’ LSU RB Leonard Fournette will challenge Auburn defense

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Video: Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp reviews performance against Jacksonville St.

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp talks about the few bright spots from Saturday, the focus for his group going forward and the trouble the Tigers have had with mobile quarterbacks.
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Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp talks about the few bright spots from Saturday, the focus for his group going forward and the trouble the Tigers have had with mobile quarterbacks.

It’s way too early in the season for LSU running back Leonard Fournette to strike a Heisman pose, but his performance against No. 25 Mississippi State only added to the hype surrounding the talented sophomore.

He carried his team to a 21-19 win over the Bulldogs with 159 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.

All three numbers represented career-highs for the young rusher who had a breakout campaign in 2014.

Auburn heads to Baton Rouge Saturday knowing that the 6-foot-1, 230-pound represents a road block in its quest for SEC West dominance.

“We certainly know we’ve got our work cut out for us this weekend,” Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.

Last year, Auburn held Fournette in check in a 41-7 win. He rushed for 42 yards on 10 carries as LSU’s offense struggled to establish its running attack.

Muschamp didn’t have similar success against Fournette as Florida’s coach. The then-true freshman ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.

On the season, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns. He ranked sixth in the SEC with 79.5 yards per game, and led the league in all-purpose yards.

Muschamp is looking forward to facing the “talented, talented” Fournette again.  

“He’s a guy you love to compete against,” Muschamp said. “He’s a great competitor and a big back. He’s got good vision. Run-game wise they’ve always been the same they’ve always been with Les, but now this guy has got some vision with the cutbacks and some of the things in the run game.”

After watching Fournette beat up the Mississippi State defense, Auburn defensive lineman Montravius Adams was impressed with the improvements the running back has made since facing him last year.

“Mississippi State is a good team, they do have a good front seven,” Adams said. “For him to have that many yards on them, that’s saying a lot. Overall, I think he’s a good back.”

Adams admitted Sunday night he wasn’t sure why the Tigers’ defense is struggling to start this season. The defense is giving up 421 yards per game with opposing offenses running for nearly 200 yards a game.

Auburn has the third worst rushing defense in the SEC, and has given up third most overall yards.

“Right now I really don’t have the answer,” Adams said. “I’m actually trying to find the answer too. You said I had a good game, I’m asking coaches if there’s anything else I can do more. At the end of the day we’ll take that win but they shouldn’t be scoring that many points and have that many yards on us.”

Mobile quarterbacks have been a problem for the defense, LSU has one in sophomore Brandon Harris, but the team’s overall scheme is different than the spread offenses Auburn has faced in the first two weeks of the season.

On Sunday, Muschamp had the defense preparing for the two-back looks he expects LSU to rely on, but his main point of emphasis this week isn't about any game plan.

“We just need to execute the call,” Muschamp said. “If we’ll do that, then we’re going to be fine. We got some guys unfortunately in some situations whether it’s lack of knowledge or understanding or eye control or whatever, don’t always execute the exact call. That’s, you can’t win that way, you just can’t do it. You continue to do the same things you’re going to get the same results. That’s my message for our defense. We’ve got to change, we’ve got to continue to evolve to be a more disciplined group.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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