Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s overhaul of his starting lineup is a work in progress.
Coming off an “embarrassing loss” to LSU, Muschamp only kept five players in the same spot for Saturday night’s 17-9 loss to Mississippi State.
Despite better overall production, Muschamp isn’t ready to give anyone a free pass to start in the team’s homecoming game against San Jose State.
“I don't know about keeping them,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp worked his way through reviewing the position groups, highlighting his area of concerns.
On the defensive line, Muschamp talked about the lack of pressure the Tigers put on MSU quarterback Dak Prescott.
He attributed part of it to a game plan focused on stopping Prescott from running the ball, and the type of protections the Bulldogs relied on, but the defensive line be more consistent winning individual battles up front.
“We need to get more pressure on the quarterback, struggled rushing four guys,” Muschamp said. “A lot of their early downs situations were seven-man protections so it's going to be hard getting four there, but somebody has got to win in the rush for us. That's something we struggled with in our first four games.”
Montravius Adams is the only lineman to start all four games at the same position. DaVonte Lambert and Dontavius Russell have started on the line in all four games, but each has two starts at tackle and two at defensive end.
Raashed Kennion started in place of the injured Carl Lawson against Mississippi St. Maurice Swain occupied the spot against LSU.
In the secondary, Muschamp turned to a pair of true freshman Carlton Davis and Jeremiah Dinson to try to bolster an underperforming group. He’s now used 11 different starters in the secondary through four games.
The group’s performance improved as the game went on. Prescott threw for 180 of his 288 yards in the first half.
“I wish we had been a little more firm on the perimeter in the first half,” Muschamp said. “I was disappointed, especially in the first drive, but we got it cleaned up after that.”
Blake Countess earned Muschamp’s highest praise in moving from defensive back to safety in place of Rudy Ford.
“We needed to move Blake to safety,” Muschamp said. “He's our best safety right now. He's also our best nickel.”
During the week, Muschamp was critical of the team’s linebackers citing communication issues at the position. Starters Justin Garrett and Tre Williams gave Auburn a more disciplined performance in the middle of the field.
“I thought we were better positioned, I thought we aligned better, the eye control was better, I thought we played blocks in the core better,” Muschamp said. “I thought we did some better things, nothing that was outstanding. There was much in the run game. I thought we fit pretty well.”
Williams hurt his knee in the third quarter, but Muschamp doesn’t expect the sophomore to miss Saturday’s game.
“He's going to be fine,” Muschamp said. “He did not practice tonight, but we expect him back Tuesday. I think he'll be fine. We fully expect him back this week.”