Auburn's Chizik feels a need for speed

One of the first things Auburn coach Gene Chizik wants to do in bolstering his defense is to put more speed on the field in 2010.

In particular, the Tigers should be faster at linebacker with sophomore Daren Bates moving over from safety, where he started all 13 games a year ago as a true freshman.

Bates' move will also give Auburn more depth at linebacker, and it sounds like Bates will play more of a hybrid role as an outside linebacker with a lot of coverage responsibilities.

Chizik termed it a "nickel mentality" and said Bates could still wind up playing both linebacker and safety.

The Tigers weren't necessarily slow on defense last season, but they did wear down toward the end of the season. Their lack of depth was a big reason, as was the 11-week gauntlet to start the season without a bye.

Bates is still recovering from shoulder surgery, so he wasn't out there Wednesday when the Tigers opened spring practice.

Getting some guys back in the secondary helped facilitate Bates' move to linebacker. Safety Mike McNeil should be healthy after missing all of last season with a broken leg, and Aairon Savage and Zac Etheridge are also former starters trying to work their way back from injuries.

It sounds like the Tigers may use a 3-4 alignment some on defense next season.

"We're trying to get as much speed as we can on the field," Chizik said. "Sometimes that involves moving guys closer to the line of scrimmage. Sometimes linebackers become defensive ends. Sometimes safeties become linebackers. We're always into the speed movement."