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Which Underclassmen Will Have An Impact On Auburn’s Defense in 2016

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Auburn v Texas A&M Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The other day, we discussed the underclassmen who could play a big role in Auburn’s 2016 offense. Today, let’s talk about the defense.

The defense is going to be a bit different. We know there will be a few big contributors. One, Carlton Davis, is obvious. There’s a lot more upperclassmen depth on the defensive side of the ball, though, so while I expect some of the younger guys to make an impact, it might not be quite as large.

Defensive Back

Carlton Davis is locked in as a starter, so we know he’ll have a huge part in Auburn’s 2016 defense. Aside from him, I’d bet Jamel Dean plays a big role, as well. The rest of the starters and major contributors will likely be juniors and seniors, though. There’s always the chance for someone with speed like Javaris Davis to earn a role, too, but I still see most of the work being done by the older guys with the exception of Davis and Dean.

Defensive Line

There are three seniors and three juniors on the defensive line. Everyone else are underclassmen. This is a spot where the younger guys can and will see a lot of playing time. We know Auburn likes to rotate the defensive line, and in order to do that, the young guys have got to play.

Dontavius Russell was a starter last year as a redshirt freshmen. I expect him to see a lot of time with Adams, Swain, and Devaroe Lawrence in the interior. Antwuan Jackson JR will make an argument for early playing time, and we’ve yet to see what incoming 5* Derrick Brown may do. The interior is filled with depth, but there’s a lot of talent that the Tigers can rotate to keep fresh legs.

Byron Cowart will hopefully reach his potential and maybe snag a starting end job. He’s going to have to beat out early enrollee Marlon Davidson, though. Davidson had an extremely impressive sprng. Whichever earns the primary role, there will be an underclassmen starting on the end opposite Carl Lawson.

Linebacker

We know T.J. Neal and Tre Williams will start at linebacker. If the Tigers stick to a more Nickel look than 4-3, there won’t be as much chance for the new guys to play. I do expect to see Jeff Holland, Darrell Williams, and Deshaun Davis on the field a good bit, though. They are all sophoores. Redshirt freshman Richard McBryde is someone to watch, too.

This is the one position where I just don’t know how much time the younger guys will get. That is mostly due to not knowing how often the Tigers will play 2 or 3 linebackers. Then there’s the face Holland could play the Buck behind Lawson more than a linebacker role.

Overall

The defense is definitely not as young as the offense. However, there’s a lot of talent among the younger players that it’s going to be hard to keep them off the field. I don’t see the underclassmen - other than the starters - having as much of an impact on defense just because of the rotations. Auburn will want to keep the same personnel on the field on offense, but not so much for the defense.