Monday, March 1, 2010

A look at the Auburn Defense....

The Auburn Tiger defense was ranked 68th in total defense last season. There were several reasons for the drop off on defense from recent years past. Injuries played a big role to the problems as three starters in the secondary, at different points during the season, had season ending injuries.

Aairon Savage suffered an injury to his achillies while working out last summer, that cost him the entire season. Mike McNeil suffered a season ending leg injury in a scrimmage, also before the season ever started. Zac Etheridge had possibly the most gut wrenching injury of the season, when he hurt his neck against Ole Miss. Etheridge collided with Antonio Coleman when trying to tackle an Ole Miss ball carrier and tore ligaments in his neck and cracked the 5th vertebra. All three players were starters in Auburn's defensive secondary. With the loss of three of four starters in the secondary, it took a toll on the defense as young players had to step up into their roles.

On top of that, Auburn played the majority of the season with only three scholarship linebackers. Iron men Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens rarely came off the field on defense and both players played pretty much every snap in the last couple of games of the season. Because of the lack of depth at linebacker especially, it severely handcuffed defensive coordinator Ted Roof in what he could call. Blitz too much and he wouldn't have anybody left in the 4th QTR. Don't blitz at all and the QB has all day to tear your defense apart.

The 2010 version of the Auburn defense should be much improved over last years version. Aairon Savage appealed to the NCAA and received a rare 6th year of eligability. Mike McNeil has gone through hours and hours of rehab and is scheduled to be back and resume his role in 2010. Last but certainly not least, Zac Etheridge, who many thought would have to hang up his cleats after his injury, has surprised everyone in his speedy recovery and may in fact return to play on the AU defense in 2010 as well.

Getting those three players back will no doubt be huge for the defense, but the biggest and most exciting changes to this years defense could be at linebacker. True freshman Daren Bates took over at safety when the injury bug hit the Auburn secondary. Not many people had much hope in the two star prospect out of Olive Branch, MS. However Bates set the SEC on fire, earning freshman All-SEC honors and played well beyond his age all year long. With the return of Auburn's three injured secondary players, Bates has been moved to linebacker to take advantage of his hitting and tackling ability. Also, with his experience playing the safety position, he should be one of the best coverage linebackers in the country. The move gives Auburn more depth at linebacker, but more importantly gives the Tigers one of the fastest corps of linebackers in recent memory. Auburn also signed on of the best linebacker classes in college football in 2010 and have a plethera of new talent coming in. Here's an early view of how I see the defense stacking up in 2010....

DE - Antoine Carter, Nosa Eguae, Corey Lemonier
DT - Nic Fairly, Zach Clayton, Derrick Lykes
DT - Mike Blanc, Jeffery Whitaker, Jamar Travis, Kenneth Carter
DE - Michael Goggans, Joel Bonomolo, Craig Sanders
OLB - Craig Stevens, LaDarius Owens, Jonathan Evans, Jessel Curry
MLB - Josh Bynes, Jake Holland, Harris Gaston
OLB - Eltoro Freeman, Daren Bates, Jawara White
CB - Aairon Savage, D'Antoine Hood, Jonathan Mincy
CB - Demond Washington, Neiko Thorpe, Ryan White, Chris Davis
S - Mike McNeil, T'Sharvan Bell, Drew Cole
S - Zac Etheridge, Mike Slade, Demetruce McNeal

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