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Changes coming for Auburn's defense?

9/17/2011

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Auburn’s defensive deficiencies were masked somewhat in the opener against Utah State because the Tigers found a way to win.

The same goes for last week against Mississippi State, which was stopped at the one-inch line to end the game.

There was no masking Auburn’s deficiencies on Saturday. This is a really bad defense right now, and there’s no other way to say it.

Clemson sliced through Auburn for 624 yards of total offense on its way to a 38-24 victory in Memorial Stadium, snapping Auburn’s 17-game winning streak and boldfacing some already serious questions about a defense that has now given up 1,603 yards in its first three games.

To his credit, Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof wasn’t running away from any responsibility.

“I’m responsible,” Roof said. “I have to go back and evaluate everything, including myself and what I’m doing.”

What the Tigers aren’t doing is stopping anybody. Their tackling was poor Saturday, and after opening the game with three excellent defensive possessions, they were on their heels the rest of the day.

There’s no question that Nick Fairley and his dominance up front saved them more than a few times last season. They don’t have that kind of game-changer anywhere on defense this season.

Instead, they have a bunch of new faces learning on the job, and it hasn’t been pretty to this point.

Clemson was 14-of-18 on third down and converted 10 straight at one point. For the season, Auburn has allowed the opposition to convert 65 percent of its third downs.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik, whose background is on defense, was asked after the game if he would get more involved in the Tigers’ defense.

His answer was that he would look at everything. The translation: You better believe he will.

The truth is that Chizik is already extremely involved. But his comfort level is on defense, and if there’s a chance he can help this group turn it around, he’s going to do anything he can.

It’s a defense that was on the field for a staggering 92 plays Saturday.

You’ve got zero chance to win in this league like that, and Chizik knows that as well as anyone.

He also knows what’s approaching in October, a brutal stretch that includes road dates at South Carolina, Arkansas and LSU.

“They’re going to handle it like men, and they’re going to go out tomorrow and practice again for the next game (Florida Atlantic),” Chizik said. “They’re going to have short memories and learn from what we didn’t do well, which is a lot of learning because we didn’t do a lot well.”