|Auburn's defensive front must become a brick wall in 2014|
With a tremendous amount of returning lettermen, and a fully intact coaching staff returning, Auburn has an opportunity to be very good defensively this coming season. Both linebackers that are expected to start have plenty of game experience.
The Tigers graduated three key defensive backs from 2013, although there is ample returning experience from the defending SEC Champions. While these positions are part of the entire defense, it all starts up front on the defensive line.
In our conference, probably more than any other, the defensive front is the key to continued success. Auburn happens to have one of the very best in the business coaching their defensive linemen in Rodney Garner. The following is from his bio on the official Auburn website:
A native of Leeds, Ala., Garner was named All-SEC offensive line and honorable mention All-America as a senior at Auburn in 1988, captaining the team that captured the 1988 SEC Championship. As a coach for the Tigers, Garner served in several capacities on the Auburn staff from 1990-95 including recruiting coordinator, tight ends coach, and assistant strength and conditioning coach.
At Georgia, he coached five NFL first round draft choices -- Richard Seymour (Patriots) and Marcus Stroud (Jaguars), both Pro Bowl starters; David Pollack (Bengals); Charles Grant (Saints); and Johnathan Sullivan (Saints). He also coached draft picks DeAngelo Tyson (7th, Ravens, `12), Geno Atkins (4th, Bengals, '10), Corvey Irvin (3rd, Panthers, `09), Jarius Wynn (6th, Packers, '09), Kedric Golston (6th, Redskins, `06), Robert Geathers (4th, Bengals, '04), Emarlos Leroy (6th, Jaguars, `99), and free agents Ken Veal (Chargers, `04), Paul Snellings (Colts, 2000), Brandon Miller (Colts, 2000), Charles Johnson (Panthers, '07), Tyrone Robertson (Bills, 2000) and Demetric Evans (Cowboys, `01).
Returning from the 2013 season that saw the defensive front improve with each game are Montravius Adams, LaDarius Owens, Gimel President, Ben Bradley, Jeffrey Whitaker, Gabe "Nick Who" Wright, JaBrian Niles, Angelo Blackson, and Brian Walsh. I did not list any RS Freshmen because they did not see action last season. Also, to highlight the fact that 7 of these guys saw extensive action last season. Whittaker was injured, and Walsh played sparingly.
Carl Lawson is out with an injury, and his return timetable is an unknown at this point.
Ben Bradley was asked how it took to "get used to Coach Garner" and his response was great. Listen to the video below for that response.
If Auburn is to make the big step forward this coming season, and really dominate their opponents, then this defensive front will be the reason why it does. They must be relentless, they must attack each play with passion, and a mean streak that won't allow themselves to be beat.
According to College Football Stats (cfbstats.com) Auburn ranked 47th in scoring defense, 63rd in rushing defense, 102nd in passing defense, and 87th in Total Defense. A repeat of this performance would spell doom to the Tigers in 2014. If our Tigers could somehow find it in themselves to reach the Top 20 in scoring defense, this could become the most dominating season in Auburn football history.
The old axiom is that Championships are won with defense, in Auburn's case, the offense should be able to score on anybody in the country, so if indeed a championship is in the mix this season, this defense will be the reason it is. I can hardly wait to find out.