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Auburn Returning Fifth Lowest Total of Letterman in College Football

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Auburn is returning some of the least experience in college football this fall. Should we be worried?

Please stay healthy.
Please stay healthy.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Steele has produced a percentage-based list of every FBS football program and the amount of returning letterman for this fall. Why percentage? Well, he explains in a little more detail, but the basic reason is that every school determines exactly what a "letterman" is in their own way.

Auburn is fifth from the bottom on this list. Should we be worried about that? Consider that Steele points out Oklahoma State went from 10-3 to struggling to make a bowl from 2013 to 2014 when they were at the bottom of the list. Auburn is fifth from the bottom in percentages, but tied for the most amount of actual players gone from one season to the next with 31.

Of those 31, at least 16 were seniors on the two-deep, plus Sammie Coates and Pat Miller leaving early. That's a pretty big chunk of contributors right there. I'm sure a good bit of the others are made up in transfers or seniors who were not on the two-deep. I wasn't able to determine exactly how Auburn determines lettermen, but looking at the total number (73) from last season, I suspect it's anyone who has completed a year on the Auburn football team and also maybe actually contributed.

The Departed

Here's a list of 18 players from the two-deep who are gone due to graduation, exhausted eligibility, or left early for the NFL Draft:

C - Reese Dismukes
QB - Nick Marshall
OL - Chad Slade
OL-Pat Miller
RB - Cameron Artis-Payne
RB - Corey Grant
TE/HB - CJ Uzomah
TE/HB - Brandon Fulse
WR - Quan Bray
WR - Sammie Coates
DT - Angelo Blackson
DT - Gabe Wright
DT - Ben Bradley
DE - LaDarius Owens
DB - Robenson Therezie
DB - Trovon Reed
DB - Jonathon Mincy
LS - Forest Hill

We've also had numerous transfers over the past season. Almost all of them have been in the defensive backfield. Mackenroe Alexander, Joe Turner, Kalvarez Bessent, Derrick Moncrief, Khari Harding, and Kamryn Melton have transferred from the program. Brandon King and Mack VanGorder were never big contributors, but they've graduated as well. If there's any one spot in particular to be concerned about, the defensive backfield would be it.

Those 18 players listed above shouldn't be concerning at all. Auburn has 85 scholarship slots and signs around 25 players per year. That means that around 25 players per year will be leaving through the natural process of eligibility. You can really count for the remaining six Auburn lost with those defensive backs.

For the most part, you can look at the list of players lost and immediately think of one or two players who received some playing time last season and will be ready to replace them or you know of the redshirted or incoming freshmen who are set to fill their spots. That is not really the case with the defensive backs. Auburn will be relying heavily on true freshmen, redshirt freshmen, and true sophomores with little experience.

Concerned or Nah?

Should Auburn be concerned? Yes, we should, because so much of the loss was concentrated in that one area of the team. It doesn't help that it's in a spot where Auburn wasn't greatly successful in last season. The starters will be fine. Jonathan Jones, Josh Holsey, and Blake Countess at the corners with Rudy Ford and Tray Matthews at Safety. It's the depth behind them that is concerning with the loss of so many transfers or graduates.

There's a lot of talent coming in, and last season's crop of defensive back recruits were supposed to be excellent, as well. Travaris Robinson and Will Muschamp are excellent coaches for defensive backs, too, so that also helps. This is really going to be the big position to watch for Auburn's defense this coming season. If the starters stay healthy (an iffy proposition since we don't even know how healthy Jonathan Jones' foot is right now), then I think the Tigers will be ok. If more than one DB goes down due to injury? Things could get really dicey.

Of course, if Carl Lawson, Byron Cowart, Davonte Lambert & Company can get after the quarterback consistently, that will go a long way towards easing other defenses woes, as well.