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Auburn's defensive leaders tell younger players to 'embrace the change'

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn linebacker Justin Garrett (26) is congratulated by teammates Tre' Williams, center, and Jeremiah Dinson (20) after intercepting a pass against Texas A&M during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Auburn linebacker Justin Garrett (26) is congratulated by teammates Tre' Williams, center, and Jeremiah Dinson (20) after intercepting a pass against Texas A&M during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) AP

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp’s exit didn’t send shockwaves through Auburn’s locker room.

The Tigers’ senior class has grown accustomed to a revolving door of assistant coaches. Muschamp didn’t spend a full year in the Plains as the program’s third defensive coordinator in four years.

With a bowl game in less than two weeks, the upperclassmen aren’t allowing the team’s younger players to dwell on any hurt feelings relating to Muschamp’s departure.

“We’re not changing anything even though Muschamp is gone,” senior linebacker Justin Garrett said. “We’re preaching that to the young guys. We’re still going to go ahead and attack practice every day. We’re still going to battle for positions.”

Garrett is one of the few fifth year seniors that also played for former defensive coordinator Ted Roof in 2011. Roof was the coach who recruited Garrett to Auburn.

In dealing with multiple staff changes, Garrett stressed the importance of finding motivation and inspiration away from the sidelines.

“You don’t play for your coach,” Garrett said. “You play for your teammates and you play for AU. That’s what I keep trying to tell the young guys.”

The 6-foot-1, 228-pounder pointed to his passion for football as a driving force in helping him face adversity.

“If you love football, you want to play,” Garrett said. “A coach leaving or a coaching coming in shouldn't change that. It’s what I want to tell all the young guys — just keep having fun, keeping doing what we've been doing. Don't decline, don't go downhill just because a coach left.”

Garrett acknowledged the inherit challenges in learning a different defensive scheme and building relationships with a new staff, but didn’t put a negative spin on it.

“You just stay positive and learn how to adjust,” Garrett said. “That’s how life is, you never know. You got to deal with adverse situations and you never know what can happen.”

As a player with similar NFL aspirations, senior defensive back Jonathan Jones echoed Garrett’s comments.

“Embrace the change,” Jones said. “It always helps it goes smoothly and learn. It’s not always a negative. As a player it adds to your resume of what you know cause different coaches have different philosophies.”

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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