The No. 13 Auburn Tigers enter Death Valley on Saturday giving No. 3 Clemson its first true test of the season. Offensive coordinator Tony Elliot believes his team will be tested when going against a deep defensive line.
Question: Are your guys ready for the step up in competition?
Elliott: “I think so. I think the confidence for our guys comes in who they practice against throughout the course of fall camp. They’ve been going against one of the best defenses in the country and now they’re being tested under the lights in the valley versus the Auburn defense so I think the guys will be excited to play. I don’t feel like they will be overwhelmed but they are challenged by the athleticism just how fundamentally sound they are and how hard they play. It’s a challenge for us.
Question: Do you feel like you guys saw what you wanted to obviously with Kent State at least not to have questions about the newcomers and how they’ll be able to fit in?
Elliot: “We’re very pleased with how we started. Last year in the Auburn game we came out with a win but we didn’t play our best football. We started the game with a procedure penalty and then we just had drop balls and weren’t as consistent running the ball at times. What you saw was just a team that looked like it had been practicing for thirty practices so that was pleasing as a coach. You always worry about an opener, first time players out there, you have a new quarterback, a new center and a lot of new pieces. The communication was where it needed to be, the targeting was where it needed to be, the effort was there so very pleased with how these guys prepared and how focused they were going into that opener.”
Question: What was it that Auburn did differently than everyone else last year to slow you guys down?
Elliott: “They challenge you athletically. They can run with you at all positions. They’re physical at the point of attack and I think just from a yardage standpoint we did drop a bunch of balls, we dropped a couple touchdowns, we had some big plays that we left out there. I think that might have given us the field that we wanted from a yardage standpoint, but they challenge you, there’s no matchup advantage we feel as opposed to some other teams defensively.”
Question: They lost a couple really talented players on the defensive line but a lot of people feel that maybe they’re deeper and more talented than last year. Is that what you’re thinking?
Elliott: “Yes I think number five is a little bigger than number one who they lost. Derek Brown is a young man that I had a chance to recruit out of Georgia. Very, very good player. Obviously he’s a great pass rusher, very effective in the run game and all those guys are a year older too. Obviously Carl Lawson was an All-SEC player but now you’ve got Davidson with some experience, Holland that’s now playing at a high level and just from watching those guys on tape versus Georgia Southern you can tell that they’re more comfortable in the system, they were flying around, they were challenged schematically with what Georgia Southern does. The guys looked like they were in-tune. The communication you could see it on film so we are looking forward to a challenge and those guys are going to be excited to play. Some of the guys that may not have played a bunch last year, they’ve had a spring, they’ve had an offseason to prepare and they got some game action last week so defensively on the defensive line it’s probably one of the deepest defensive lines we’ve gone against in a while.”
Question: Does Kevin Steele do anything different than when he was here or is it kind of the same stuff?
Elliott: “I think what he’s done is a good job of maybe simplifying a bit and getting his guys lined up and letting them play. You still see some of the same things as when he was here but that was over six years ago so over time you adapt. Obviously he’s one of the best minds in college football on the defensive side of the ball. He’s going to study you and I think I even heard him talking about Georgia Southern. He went back six, seven years on that coordinator so he’s going to know our tendencies, he’s going to know what we do, he’s going to have his guys locked in and it’s going to come down to can we win the one-on-one matchups.”