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Auburn Football 2014 First Half Review - The Defense

Looking back at the defense's performance in the first half of the season and whether or not it has met or exceeded expectations.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

As with the offense and special teams, you can find all of the position previews at the Position Preview Hub. \

Safeties:

It's funny to look back now at how I played up Moncrief and just slipped in that Ford had slipped ahead of him. Ford has been a treat to watch in the defensive backfield this season. He is fast becoming an excellent player in the secondary and proving why he won that starting spot.

Meanwhile, Jermaine Whitehead was on fire for two games and then did something to force a suspension that has lasted until this past Sunday night. Whitehead is back with the team, but he will have to earn his way onto the field. I mentioned depth behind the starters being a big issue at the start of the season at the safety position, and that proved to be the case when Whitehead was suspended. There was no true back-up in the two-deep, so Josh Hosley moved back from corner to his old position and has played it well.

Cornerback:

Josh Holsey, Jonathon Mincy, and Jonathon Jones were expected to be the big contributors here at the start of the season. Holsey moved over to safety, so it's been up to Mincy and Jones to bear a good bit of the weight. Albeit with some pretty good help from senior Trovon Reed. Reed - while having moments to make you shake your head - has played the position pretty well for someone who was a wide receiver for the entire time he was on campus until this fall. At least I think he's done well.

Secondary As A Whole: Have they been absolute lights out? No. But they've been more than good enough. Don't believe me? Just take a look at this graphic:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>In last 22 quarters, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Auburn?src=hash">#Auburn</a> has allowed just 2 passing TDs in 183 pass attempts. <a href="http://t.co/BM0gFbcIfE">http://t.co/BM0gFbcIfE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WarEagle?src=hash">#WarEagle</a> <a href="http://t.co/sjhWo1hPpa">pic.twitter.com/sjhWo1hPpa</a></p>&mdash; Auburn Tigers (@AuburnTigers) <a href="https://twitter.com/AuburnTigers/status/524676415061762048">October 21, 2014</a></blockquote>

<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

That's pretty danged impressive. I'll take that. None of them are truly "shut down" DBs, but I'm sure as heck proud of them for the job they've done this season.

Linebacker/Star:

Things looked a bit bleak leading up to the season when word came out that Robenson Therezie was working through an eligibility issue. Sure, Justin Garrett is great at the Star position as well, but he's more of a true linebacker (evidenced by the fact that he's moved back to linebacker, now) rather than the roving hybrid that Therezie plays so well. Therezie came back in an 11th hour decision and immediately showed why he's so good at that position in the Arkansas game on a QB hurry that led to Whitehead's pick-six. Backing up Therezie now is true freshman Nick Ruffin, who looks to be a pretty good player at the Star in his own right.

For the linebackers, we've had to deal with some injuries at key moments. Both Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy have missed time due to injury. Anthony Swain and true freshman Tre Williams have done well backing them up when needed, however. Now we add Justin Garrett into the "three man mix" at the linebacker position. Garrett will mostly be at the weakside position (Frost's spot) when he plays from what I've read.

They're not quite a Tuberville-era LB corps, but they're an improvement over what we've had since Josh Bynes left. They've played well, just like the defense as a whole.

Defensive Line:

I tackled the defensive line previews as DT and DE separately in the preseason. I'm going to lump this all into one, now. At the beginning of the season there was plenty of discussion about some situations where Auburn would essentially have four DTs in the game at one time. As the season progressed, the line has settled into a more typical set with players recruited to play DT or DE playing DT or DE.

As for their performance? Serviceable. They're a pretty good line that has done ok with stopping the run. They have not gotten any edge rush, though. Auburn has not been able to put much pressure on the quarterback with four down linemen. Oh Carl Lawson, how we miss you so.

That's not to say there's not promise. Some players who were not really being discussed in the preseason are starting to develop, now. True freshman Raashed Kennion is one of them. Redshirt Sophomore Gimel President is another one. These young players beginning to mature shows great promise for Auburn's defensive line in the future.

There is still no word on if Carl Lawson will return this season. I would be amazed if he does, to be honest. So, Auburn is going to have to make do with what we have out there. Hopefully one of those young players breaks out. JUCO DB Brandon King has been getting some work at the defensive end position lately in hopes of finding someone who can provide a pass rushing threat. Until that happens though, Auburn is going to have to rely on blitzes to bring pressure.

Conclusion

I am quite happy with this defense. They have played very well all season long. Sure, they gave up 38 points to Mississippi State, but they were put in a hole for a number of those points with their back to the wall. They are leaps and bounds better than the defenses Auburn has been putting on the field for the past few years. It's great to see good defense played on the Plains, again. I look forward to seeing how they continue to mature and get better in the second half of the season.