Switching safeties

Bryan Matthews, Senior Editor
Auburn Sports

AUBURN | For most of last season, Tray Matthews was Auburn’s starting strong safety and Stephen Roberts worked at free. This season the seniors are switching it up.

“We've been trying to do some things differently this year,” Matthews said. “This year, I wanted to play a little more field so I could be in the mix with the passing game and stuff like that. So I let him come close to the line of scrimmage on different plays. I've been very impressed with him.”

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Robin Conn/AuburnSports.com

Roberts has adapted quickly to being a box safety with seven tackles and 3.0 tackles-for-loss in the Tigers’ first two games. He likes the extra responsibility.

“It has something to do with just being confident in the game, knowing my job and knowing what I’m supposed to do,” Roberts said. “That’s just my responsibility. It’s just a great play, but it’s still my job and I still have to be accountable.”

The versatility both are showing gives defensive coordinator Kevin Steele plenty of options when he’s dialing up schemes and should be a bonus when Matthews and Roberts are going through the NFL Draft process next spring.

“It's very good for us,” Matthews said. “It makes us able to be very versatile, do different things in the run game, do different things in the passing game, especially with the size difference between me and him. It's a lot to look forward to in the future.”

No. 15 Auburn came up short at No. 3 Clemson last weekend but is hoping to build a little momentum against Mercer this Saturday before a run of seven-straight conference games.

“Our standards are very high on defense, and that’s one thing we’ll improve on the most — finishing games,” Roberts said. “That’s one thing we’re big on this year finishing games because there’s a lot of games that will come down to the last play and defense will have to step up, so that’s something that we preached on.”

Kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium is set for 3 p.m. CT on SEC Network alternate.

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