|Gabe Wright & Dee Ford. photo courtesy of Auburn University|
I love to talk football, especially with people that truly enjoy the game. I recently had such a discussion with a gentleman while we were at a family gathering. We both agreed that the game is won in the trenches. What he didn't realize was, Auburn didn't lose every good player along the defensive front when Dee Ford finished his Senior season.
I smiled when he asked if Auburn signed any good players for our defensive front. Let's take a look and see what our Tigers will bring to the discussion this fall.
Gus Malzahn and company signed 6 new faces to the defensive line. Justin Thornton, Dontavius Russell, DaVonte Lambert, Andrew Williams, Devaroe Lawrence, and Raashed Kennion. All highly rated, and highly sought after recruits, that will try to make their way into the rotation.
Returning players are; Montravius Adams, Gimel President, Keymiya Harrell,Ben Bradley, Jeff Whitaker, Carl Lawson, Jackson Thomas, Chase Robison, Gabe wright, Tyler Nero, JaBrian Niles, Reid Brooks, Aaron Garrison, Elijah Daniel, Angelo Blackson, and Brian Walsh.
Last season defensive line coach Rodney Garner and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson devised a plan to rotate as many players as they could without losing production from this group. Coach Garner must have been happy with the improvement by the defensive line from Washington State last season to the team that took the field vs FSU in the final BCS Championship.
Gabe Wright led the way at the Tackle position with 8.5 tackles for loss (TFL) With a proven interior, and star studded ends, this looks to be one of the better groups on the team. Maybe ranked just behind the WR position on offense, when compared to experience and sheer numbers.
Keymiya Harrell is coming off a knee injury and did not play last season. Chase Robison is the transfer from Texas Tech, and has not played a single down of college football. These two young men are going to be the wild cards in an already stacked deck.
With all of this experience returning, and a second year in this system, the first for any member of this Auburn defense, look for the run stopping production to improve. Last season Auburn finished ranked 63rd in the country vs. the run allowing 4.60 yards per carry.
An improvement into the Top 20 in the run defense category would be the single most helpful improvement this defense could make. This would allow for more three and out series vs. their opponents, and set up more pass defense plays for a secondary that improved drastically from the season before. More on them later.