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Iron focus? Auburn not looking past Idaho, gaining important bowl eligibility

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) carries the ball for a first down as he gets past Auburn defensive back Derrick Moncrief (24) during the second half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. Georgia won 20-13.
Georgia running back Sony Michel (1) carries the ball for a first down as he gets past Auburn defensive back Derrick Moncrief (24) during the second half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. Georgia won 20-13. AP Photo

Auburn isn’t in a position to look past Idaho.

The Iron Bowl might be two weeks, but at 5-5 the Tigers can’t afford to let their focus slip.  

“We're focused on Idaho and getting bowl eligible,” Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said Sunday night when asked about the possibility of preparing for Alabama. “We'll worry about that week when it comes.”

For a defense relying on a number of young players, Muschamp underlined the important of having an extra month of practices, 15 in total, to shape his group going into 2016.  

“It’s another spring ball, and another opportunity to really work fundamentally on technique for a small period of time before you start game preparation,” Muschamp said.

Muschamp used one of his former players at Florida Loucheiz Purifoy as an example of how important the extra practice time can be.

“As a true freshman, (Purifoy) started the bowl game,” Muschamp said. “He didn’t start a game the entire season, played fantastic in the Sugar Bowl. I’ve seen a bunch of guys make huge improvements over that time. Again, as young players going into this, the game starts to slow down more and more for you as you go.”

Taking a stand

Muschamp gave high marks for the way a number of defenders played on Saturday against Georgia.

He started by saying defensive lineman Devaroe Lawrence had his “best game” of the season. Lawrence finished with five tackles, one for a loss, and made a key play at the line of scrimmage during Auburn’s goal line stand.

“He made a great play on the goal line on third down,” Muschamp said. “He made an outstanding play on another third-down stop where he was on a one-on-one situation. He continues to progress, he continues to get better.”

The coaching staff has given the junior opportunities throughout the season, but hasn’t seen him consistently produce until the last few games. 

Door open for Davis return

Auburn defensive back T.J. Davis could play this season even if it means his sole appearance is in a potential bowl game.

Davis, who is recovering from a torn ACL, redshirted as a true freshman. The coaching staff has no reason to keep him out once he gains clearance from the Tigers’ medical staff.

The 6-foot-0, 200-pound Florida native has participated in practice the past few weeks, but isn’t healthy enough to return just yet.  

“He's a guy who has to get confidence on cutting off that leg,” Muschamp said. “It's still a very short turnaround to be realistic. He is out moving and doing everything we're asking him to do. He's practicing. He's getting reps with our guys getting ready to play each week. We see improvement each week. He's got to continue to get stronger and be more firm coming out of cuts.”

Thinning out

Auburn’s depth in its secondary is getting pretty thin. With Joshua Hosley, and Jeremiah Dinson out for the season, the Tigers don’t have much wiggle room.

On Sunday, Muschamp said that Auburn’s third cornerback is Blake Countess. If a game situation occurred where he needed to go lower on the depth chart at the position, freshman Javaris Davis would be pulled out of a redshirt, and put in the game.

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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