Auburn spring football 2013: Defensive depth chart entering summer

Dee Ford takes on an offensive lineman during spring practice. - Todd Van Emst photo

Who are the candidates to take starting roles in Ellis Johnson's new 4-2-5 scheme?

With spring practice completed, it's time to look at Auburn's defense and the progress it has made. The Tigers are learning a new scheme under coordinator Ellis Johnson, and there are bright spots and concerns on the roster going into the long, hot summer. We were going to try to offer our projections for the Tigers' current depth chart, but Gus Malzahn went ahead and made it a little easier. We offered our offensive projections last week, and they were pretty accurate.

Defensive line

End A-Day stats Tackle A-Day stats Tackle A-Day stats End A-Day stats
Dee Ford 1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 TFL Jeffrey Whitaker 2 tackles Gabe Wright 3 tackles, 1 TFL Kenneth Carter 2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
Craig Sanders 2 tackles, 1 TFL

Ben Bradley

1 tackle Angelo Blackson N/A Nosa Eguae 6 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

The defensive line was one of Auburn's biggest disappointments in 2012. With Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford at the ends, and Jeffrey Whitaker and Angelo Blackson inside, most Auburn fans expected the line to be one of the Tigers' strengths. Instead, injuries and inconsistent play held back the pass rush from the ends, and a complete lack of physicality led to the interior linemen being manhandled all season. This year, Auburn brings just about everyone back -- aside from Lemonier -- and with better coaching, the play should be better across the board. Don't be surprised if the line remains in flux, as Ford is the only player who seems to have totally locked down his job.

Quote of the spring

"(Carter and Eguae have) improved enough that somebody's going to have to come in and beat them out. There's not going to be a job waiting on somebody.

"I do think we got some young players coming in who have some skill sets that these guys don't have that can probably pass rush on the edge a little bit better. How soon they would be ready to play as an every-down player is a big question mark." - Ellis Johnson

Linebacker

Will A-Day stats Mike A-Day stats
Cassanova McKinzy 2 tackles Kris Frost 2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
JaViere Mitchell 1 tackle Jake Holland 4 tackles

Linebacker has been a weak spot over the last two years, with Jake Holland unable to provide consistent production in the middle. However, it looks like the young talent Auburn fans have been waiting on has finally emerged. Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost received some praise during spring practice, with Frost making the biggest strides to move into a potential starting role -- although, he has apparently had some struggles. The best thing about Johnson's 4-2-5 may be that Auburn only has to put two true linebackers on the field at a time. Considering the Tigers still don't have a ton of proven commodities at the position, that's a major bonus.

Quote of the spring

"We've all been in the film room getting the work done when the coach isn't in there. The more you do that, the most you'll be able to come out and everything will be second nature." - Kris Frost

Star

Star A-Day stats
Justin Garrett 3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass breakup
Robenson Therezie 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup

The biggest revelation this spring was the emergence of Justin Garrett at the Star position. A player many Auburn fans hadn't heard of, Garrett had a ton of hype going into A-Day, thanks to consistent praise from coaches and players at practice, and he didn't disappoint. Garrett was all over the field, making big hits, contributing on pass and providing a big play with the fumble return for a touchdown. It was exactly the type of performance Johnson wants to see out of his safety/linebacker hybrid position. Obviously, playing in real, live games will be a new challenge, but Garrett looks like he could be Auburn's best defensive player in 2013.

Quote of the spring

"I just knew when the quarterback first snapped the ball, and I was just flying around, just playing as myself. I knew it was the perfect position for me." - Justin Garrett

Secondary

Boundary corner A-Day stats Boundary safety A-Day stats Field safety A-Day stats Field corner A-Day stats
Chris Davis 1 tackle Joshua Holsey 3 tackles, 0.5 TFL Jermaine Whitehead 5 tackles Jonathon Mincy 1 tackle
Ryan White 6 tackles, 1 pass breakup Trent Fisher 1 tackle Ryan Smith 3 tackles, 1 interception Jonathan Jones N/A

The secondary has been the biggest issue for Auburn since the end of the Tommy Tuberville era in 2008, and it's not really clear how much improvement we'll see in 2013. Chris Davis and Joshua Holsey showed some sparks last season, but the rest of the unit was pretty much a universal disappointment. If Johnson and secondary coaches Melvin Smith and Charlie Harbison can do a better job of developing these players, they should get better on the field. However, the biggest boon to the secondary may be the new alignment. With the Star position providing help and the defense as a whole showing different looks -- 4-2-5, 4-3, 3-4 -- Auburn's defense could throw opposing offenses off enough to give the secondary a break.

Quote of the spring

"Coach Smith, he tells us every day. He says, ‘You're gonna get picks this year. We're going to lead the SEC in picks this year. That's his goal. He wants us to get picks no matter what." - Joshua Holsey

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