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Less is more in Auburn's defensive playbook

*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations

AUBURN, Ala. -- It was a whirlwind. New coaching staff. New ideas. The BCS title game.

Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson looks back and see good things, and wonders if his defense tried too many things.

"We may have gone too fast last year, may have put too much in too quickly," he says.

Ah, but this year is different.

"This year, what we've been able to do is almost the reverse of that," Johnson said. "We know our personnel better, and we know what we can do, and what we can be really good at, and what we don't need to be fooling with. Frankly, at this stage of installation and putting in schemes, we've done less this year than last year."

Year Two of Ellis Johnson, Gus Malzahn, et.al, figures to benefit from familiarity of all concerned. That includes returning starters, the possibility of Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy switching their linebacker duties, and a secondary that promises new faces.

Jonathon Mincy returns to the secondary, though he's moving from the field cornerback spot, whose responsibility is the wide side of the field, to boundary corner, who covers the short side of the field. That's Chris Davis' old spot. Josh Holsey, who was injured, is in the cornerback mix, too. Count Johnathan Jones, Kamryn Melton and Trovon Reed in there, too.

Johnson called the boundary corner "really critical spot in our roster."

"Mincy has made a good transition so far, but Josh may end up moving back to boundary corner if we have to move Mincy around," Johnson said. "We've got a lot of flexibility and moving parts. Part of that is good, but, to be truthful I would like to come out of spring with a little bit better idea of where they're all going to fit and we can get a little better continuity.

"When we started having that rash of injuries last year during the season, a lot of our consistency was lost. That's what can happen. It may take spring and a little bit of the preseason. We've got some good looking freshmen that are going to come in. You never want to count on them to solve your problems, but they'll be some pleasant surprises in those groups and I'm sure some of those will help us too.

"You're talking about guys like (Justin) Garrett moving around. You're talking about guys like Holsey moving around. You're talking about some guys that have the ability to do that for us, but I think the sooner we get them settled in the right place the better off we're going to be."

Reed, a wide receiver his first four years at Auburn, counting a redshirt season, has impressed in his transition to defense.

"Trovon has had a really good camp," Johnson said. "Just his cover skills and playing the position physically, he's been a really bright spot. We think he's going to help us tremendously."

One of the big spring experiments is moving Frost from Mike linebacker to Will linebacker, and McKinzy from Will to Mike. Johnson needs backups, too, and said Kenny Flowers, Cameron Toney and the injured JaViere Mitchell are in the mix.

"None of them have really jumped out and had anything dynamic, but I feel like I'm gaining some confidence in all of them," Johnson said.


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