AUBURN | No. 13 Auburn has been led through the first four weeks by a dominating defense that ranks fourth nationally in yards allowed.
A key part of that success is Jeff Holland, who has matured from a backup to one of the SEC’s most feared pass rushers.
“He got better last year at taking on the run, his physicality and then this year he’s really taken the next step as far as pass rushing and his motor. He’s really a factor,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “He is that guy that the (offense) has to know where he’s at in passing situations and he’s really raised his level.”
Holland has 12 tackles, leads Auburn with 4.5 tackles-for-loss and is tied with Tre’ Williams for the team lead with 2.5 sacks. He’s one of the most active and spirited players on the defense.
“Jeff is relentless,” senior safety Tray Matthews said. “He's a funny guy. He's always yelling and screaming. He's very outgoing and it translates onto the field as well.”
A junior, Holland backed up Carl Lawson at Buck linebacker last season. He’s nearly matched his career totals coming into the season in tackles-for-loss (5.5) and sacks (3.0).
His teammates consider him one of the team’s most improved players.
“He made a huge improvement,” Matthews said. “He was learning from one of the best players that came through, Carl Lawson. He looked at his tape, he played behind him and now y'all see he's become one of those great players.”
Auburn hosts No. 24 Mississippi State Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. CT on ESPN.