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New DC Johnson Tries To Speed Up His Defense At Auburn

AUBURN FOOTBALLThe biggest trend in college football today is the up-tempo, no-huddle, fast-as-lightning approach to offense made popular — in large part — by the success of Chip Kelly at Oregon and Gus Malzahn at Auburn.  By racing to the line of scrimmage between plays, offenses are able to dictate to defenses their personnel.  Forget sub packages, there’s no time to get guys on the field and get them lined up.

Could it be that a solution to this problem might emerge from one of the school’s best known for its up-tempo style?

New Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is building a defense this spring that he hopes can deal with Malzahn’s hurried offense on the practice field… and with offenses like Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Tennessee this fall.  According to Joel A. Erickson of, the plan is to put versatile players on the field who can be deployed in different positions based on down and distance.  In other words, there’s no need for substitutions on a play-by-play basis:


“But Johnson’s scheme, which keeps defensive linemen on the same side of the field against all formations, usually places the linebackers inside the formation and uses versatile safeties who can play either the boundary or the field position, matched the offense’s personnel by transforming from base defense to sub-packages while using the same personnel.”


Johnson’s new system also cuts down on the number of assignments for each player, allowing them to fly to the football faster.  Johnson likes what he’s seen so far: “They haven’t gotten a lot of brain lock out there on things that have been a little new that we’re doing or they see something the offense hasn’t done yet, see a new play or a new formation.  I’ve been really pleased with the overall performance of them from an assignment standpoint.”

No doubt, the solution isn’t perfect.  Players can still wear down over the course of a series.  And with fewer assignments, there’s the likelihood for a few more defensive breakdowns when facing an up-tempo option team.

Still, it is is fitting that one of the folks tinkering with a means to de-claw hurry-up offenses is a guy who has to face such an offense each day in practice.



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