Training camp continues to move along across college football, and the Auburn Tigers are no different. Auburn defensive coordinator Ron Roberts is entering his first season on the Plains and is looking to return the Tigers to the high level of defense they are known for.
Auburn has taken a few steps back on both sides of the ball over the past few seasons, but with a new coaching staff and an overhauled roster, the Tigers appear to be heading toward greener pastures.
"I think it's been a drastic improvement from the spring," Roberts said on how camp has gone so far. "Guys did a good job this summer of studying and learning. They've done a better job of knowing what to do and knowing their assignments coming in.
Auburn has seen a lot of good things from the "jack" or edge rusher position. Jalen McLeod, a 6-foot-1, 237-pound junior who transferred from Appalachian State, has been among the biggest producers at the position.
"He's a special talent," Roberts said about McLeod. "Especially when it comes time to pin it back and go rush. We haven't done any real third down stuff so everything he's done has mainly been first and second down so he hasn't really had an opportunity to do those but every practice he has been very productive. He just hasn't had a lot of opportunities to rush the quarterback."
The linebacker position is one of the biggest question marks surrounding Auburn heading into 2023. Roberts elaborated on what he has seen from the group so far.
"We've got a pretty good competition there," Roberts said. "We've got about six of them that are competing and the way I see it right now no one has really stepped up and pulled away from the pack. The emphasis we gave to them is that they have to be productive and consistent every down. That's the heartbeat of any defense."
The Tigers made their presence known in the transfer portal this offseason to put the best roster possible on the field this season. The defense looks different than it did in the spring. Roberts discussed the process of incorporating new players into his scheme.
"Most of them were here all summer which gave me a huge jump start on the mental part," Roberts said. "The whole summer focus was really knowing what to do. We've kind of focused in the fall on the how and situations that we have to make adjustments to. I think those guys did a good job."
Roberts has been around football for a long time, with 31 seasons of coaching experience. He discussed how he has been able to stick with it and find success despite the game evolving on both sides of the ball.
"I love football," Roberts said. "I love studying what's new and what the trends are. That's the way this game is, so if you're not up on the latest things and the way to do it and how an offense is going to attack you and how to handle it you can fall behind real quick. I love that part of it, and I think our kids are really enjoying it."
Roberts and the Auburn defense are less than four weeks away from having the opportunity to showcase the improvements that they have made.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.