As you may or may not know, I lived in Auburn, Alabama from 2008-2012 and still have some friends down that way. A friend of mine that I still keep in touch with is Scott Bagwell, one of the biggest Auburn fans I know, who is also a good writer. He is very knowledgeable and won’t just be an Auburn homer. He will tell it like it is, which is what we want. He decided to help me (and all of you Louisville fans) out by writing a post about both the offense and the defense of Auburn. This post will focus on the defensive side of the ball. If you missed the one on the offense, here you go.
By Scott Bagwell:
“The best defensive mind in all of football, not just college football,” that is what Gus Malzahn said about new Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. High praise to say the least.
Will Muschamp was brought back to Auburn to fix a defense. Malzahn has proven he can win with an average defense. But he wants an elite one, so he went and got the best coach he could. That hire paid off in early February as Auburn got the #1 recruit in the country in DE Byron Cowart. 4 star LB Jeff Holland also signed with Auburn giving the Tigers depth at positions of need.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a fan of recruiting rankings, but I am about to mention a lot of stars. That is just to show that there is plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball to win games. That talent has just not translated to the field.
Last year, Auburn only got to the QB 21 times, worst in the SEC. The pass rush is the main thing Muschamp needs to get fixed. Cowart will help, as will Carl Lawson, who is returning from ACL surgery in April of 2014. Lawson is another former 5 star, and has earned high praise from coaches and players. Montravious Adams, another former 5 star, and Dontravious Russell will start inside and look to give Auburn a push inside. Adams has shown flashes of being one of the best in the game, he just has to do it consistently now. Russell drew praise from his DL in the spring with his disruptive play. DeVonte Lambert, Gimel President, Devaroe Lawrence, and Cameron Toney will all play as well. There is a lot of talent on the 2 deep up front; it just has to come together.
LB has been a question for Auburn since 2010. Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost both turned down the NFL to come back for their senior years. Both have the ability to have big years, the question is, will they put it together? Justin Garrett, another senior and sophomore Tre Williams, another former 5 star, will get plenty of snaps this year. True Freshman Jeff Holland will also play.
*The above photo is Josh Harvey-Clemons (Louisville) and Tray Matthews (Auburn), both transfers from the University of Georgia.
The starters in the back 4 for Auburn are pretty good. Jonathan Jones had 6 picks last year and he will start at one corner. Blake Contess, a Michigan graduate transfer, and Josh Hosley are the two competing for the job at the other corner. Both are seniors and both have played in big games.
UGA transfer Tray Matthews, who almost signed with Auburn out of high school, will be back on the field for the first time since 2013 this fall. Auburn is relying on the former 4 star prospect to make an impact this fall. Starting at the other safety spot will be Jonathan Ford. Ford lead the team with 93 tackles last year and had 3 picks in his first full year at safety. He started his Auburn career at RB and then moved to corner in 2013.