As with last last season, as we get into pre-season camp, we're going to take a look at ten different Auburn position units leading up to the first week of the season. So, we'll do two per week for the next five weeks as we count down our time to the Louisville game!
We'll begin just as we did last season, with the defensive tackles.
Key Losses -
Whew, boy. This is a big list. Not necessarily in number, but in playing time/experience
Ben Bradley, Jeff Whitaker, Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson
Key Returnees -
Montravius Adams, Devaroe Lawrence, Dontavius Russell (RS-Fr), Andrew Williams (RS-Fr)
Maurice Swain (JUCO), Jaunta'vius Johnson
Causes for Optimism -
Montravius Adams actually increased his production last season, and there's no reason to think he won't do so again this year. Having an edge rush should help free him up in the middle, as well. He's a junior with a lot of experience with Rodney Garner, so he can be a big force in the middle. Dontavius Russell received a ton of praise last year and there was some consideration to pulling his redshirt, then. The level of depth on the line made the coaches decide to change their minds on that.
Maurice Swain comes in with some experience in the JUCO ranks, and he can help shore up the middle with Adams in those terms. Of course, the hope is that he's a more-than-capable lineman, himself. Andrew Williams moving inside is just an assumption on my part, but at 6-4, 270, he's got the size and frame. Imagine trying to throw over THAT in the middle. Jaunta'vius Johnson is a similar situation, though he's considerably wider. At 6'2, 322, he will definitely have a chance to contribute immediately if he's ready.
Causes for Concern -
Experience and depth. Those are big concerns for the defensive tackles. The only player with extensive SEC experience is Montravius Adams. Maurice Swain has a lot of playing time at the JUCO level, but the SEC is a different world. Devaroe Lawrence came in from JUCO last year with hopes of significant playing time, and didn't ever really earn it. Of course, there were a number of experienced seniors ahead of him. It will be a trial by fire for a number of these guys early on in the season.
Depth isn't as big a concern this season as it would have been if I were looking at this year's line with last year's scheme. Muschamp's defense means we may be able to go a number of sets with only one true tackle in the middle with two rush ends and the Buck. It's still a concern, though; particularly when coupled with that lack of experience factor.
I'm going FULL BARN on this one. I think Montravius Adams has a break out year. He won't quite be Nick Fairley level dominant, but he won't have to be. He may not even get anywhere close to Fairley's number of sacks, but his pressure in the middle will merit him some tackles for loss and quite a few quarterback hurries that will get cleaned up by the ends.
Meanwhile, Dontavius Russell will show us why coaches were so excited about him last year. He may not see a ton of time, but we know how much Auburn rotates linemen to keep them fresh, so expect to see him at least as much as we saw Adams in 2013. Jaunta'vius Johnson may be the same way. Maurice Swain will prove to be more than capable of handling the SEC pressure, as well.
I don't expect this to be an amazing position group, but I do expect them to be more than good enough to handle the majority of teams Auburn will play. They'll hold their own and come up with a number of big plays. I'd say they'll be Millennium Falcon-esque. They may not look like much (in stats), but they'll have it wear it counts (results).