For the last two football seasons, I’ve gone through the football roster and attempted to preview the team by position groups. Normally that is something I’ve delved into around the start of Fall Camp or even before. However, the last few seasons have seen players injured, leave the team, dismissed, etc, which threw those previews into flux and required them to need editing.
To avoid that, I decided to wait until the last possible minute to do the previews this season. We’ve already seen one key player dismissed and one out with a significant injury, so I’m starting to feel smart about that decision. We may even have a starting quarterback named by the time I get to the offense, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that. With so little time before game week, the goal is to put out one or two of these per day through Sunday so that when Monday rolls around, we’re ready to get into game week posts.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
The Defensive Tackles
Key Losses -
None (all departed players through graduation or transfer were Defensive Ends)
Key Returnees -
Montravius Adams, Devaroe Lawrence, Dontavius Russell, Maurice Swain JR,
Newcomers (includes redshirts) -
Jaunta’vius Johnson (out for season with injury), Antwuan Jackson, Derrick Brown
Causes For Optimism
Everyone returns from this group. Montravius Adams is now the senior leader and he’s joined by two other seniors in Maurice Swain and Devaroe Lawrence. Lawrence was starting to be an absolute wrecking ball in the interior by the end of last year, so if he continued to progress through spring and fall, the line will be stout. The other returner, Dontavius Russell, was a more than adequate player (at times an excellent one) and that was as a redshirt freshman. This is an excellent core group with a ton of experience.
Behind them, we have two true freshmen who were both highly recruited. I listed Jaunta’vius Johnson, but he’s going to miss the 2016 season with a knee surgery, so he will be back as a redshirt sophomore next year. The two freshmen, though... they are something else.
Antwuan Jackson JR is listed at 6’2, 303 lbs on the roster. He was a high 4*. Derrick Brown is a monster at 6’5, 330 lbs. Both will play this season. They’ll play a lot with the way Auburn likes to substitute linemen. Brown just arrived this summer and is pushing for a lot of playing time. Jackson was here back in the Spring and was making noise alongside another freshman defensive lineman on the end.
This is a talented bunch. It’s probably the best set of defensive linemen Auburn has had as a group in 15-20 years, and there are a lot of them to rotate through and keep them fresh.
Causes For Concern
I honestly don’t have any. There are six players for two spots. I’d be a little trepid about starting the freshmen right now, but there is enough depth that I don’t think it will come to that due to injury. I’m not saying one of them won’t be starting by the end of the season, I’m just saying I don’t think it will be due to injury. They’re talented enough to push for starting on their own merits by season’s end. "Starter" isn’t going to matter with this group, overall, though. They’re all going to play and play a lot.
I went FULL BARN on my defensive tackle predictions last season. It didn’t work out quite like I hoped, but I’m still going to go FULL BARN this year.
Last year, I was psyched about Monty Adams and Dontavius Russell (who, remember, hadn’t played a single game before then). This year, we have six players on the defensive line that I truly believe could each start at some point.
With a healthy and talented group of defensive ends (more on them later today), this is a defensive line that’s going to cause offensive lines to really question where to focus. Can they afford to double-team anyone when each player is capable of creating havoc? We’ll see. I’m excited to see what they can bring to the table.