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Auburn defense continues to shine while offense shows its youth in A-Day game

AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) - After losing several key defensive players after the 2017 season, Auburn's defense picked up right where they left off in their annual A-Day game.

"I feel great about our defense," Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. "They just carried it over from last year. "

Auburn's defense picked up right where they left off last season. Both the Orange and Blue defenses were electric right from the start.

The defense as a whole would hold the Orange and Blue teams to a combined 422 total yards of offense on the day and 2 total touchdowns.

"What really stood out to me was our defense," Malzahn said of the defenses overall performance. "They played extremely well and our second defense played well, too. They have done that all spring."

Veterans Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson led the Orange defense, each tallying a sack on the game. Coe would also tally two tackles-for-loss for 10 yards.

“We have one of the best defense, if not the best defense, in the nation," Auburn running back C.J. Tolbert said. "They have amazing players over there, all eleven of them."

Freshman Big Kat Bryant highlighted the Blue defense forcing and recovering a fumble in the first half. Bryant would also finish with two tackles-for-loss for 4 yards.

Without the arm of starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham, the Tigers showed there's room for growth offensively in their annual A-Day game.

Stidham did not participate in the scrimmage but threw several passes in the 7-on-7 warm up. His absence left freshman Malik Willis (Orange) and freshman Joey Gatewood (Blue) to start for their respected teams.

Both Willis and Gatewood showed their youth throughout the scrimmage, missing easy targets and causing several turnovers. The quarterbacks combined for a total of 186 yards total offense at the half.

"Our quarterbacks, it was good to see them out there in front of a crowd," Malzahn said of the quarterback play. 

Gatewood, the St. Augustine, Florida native, especially struggled, going into the half with 0 yards passing and -9 yards rushing. Gatewood also took a tackle-for-loss in the end zone, giving the Orange team the first 2 points of the game.

Willis came into the scrimmage with one season at Auburn under his belt, and his experience showed, helping the Orange team to an 18-10 victory. 

"Malik missed a couple of ones over the top but he played against one of the best defenses in college football so in the long run that will only make him better," Malzahn said of Miller. "The fumble is something that really stood out for me."

He would end the game going 8-20 with 45 yards passing and 3 yards rushing and 1 turnover.

The Tigers also had a huge hole to fill on offense at the running back position. Auburn lost starting running backs Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway to the NFL Draft following the 2017 season.

"Running back-wise, we are going to have some depth, there is no doubt about that," Malzahn said following the A-Day game.

Harding University junior transfer Tolbert led the way as far as running backs went. Tolbert led the game with 137 total yards and 2 touchdowns. 

"You have to compete every day," Tolbert said of his performance. "I feel like that sparks me every day. I have four other guys that could beat me out at any given time."

He also had the biggest highlight of the game, breaking off a 79-yard run for the Orange team.

"The offensive linemen and receivers set it up perfectly," Tolbert said about the run. Coach [Malzahn] always talked about being patient and I let them get on the blocks and off to the races.”

Returning tailback Kam Martin did not play because of a tweaked hamstring according to Malzahn.

As for the special teams, freshman kicker Anders Carlson didn't miss a beat, picking up where his big brother, Daniel, left off. 

"It’s been encouraging to see him out there kicking the way he did in front of a crowd," Malzahn said of Carlson's performance.

Carlson went 4-4 on the day, highlighted by a 53-yard field goal for the Orange team.

Auburn will practice twice more to close out the Spring season. The Tigers will kick off their 2018 season Sept. 1 against Washington in Atlanta, Georgia.


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