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Auburn Football 2016 Position Previews: Defensive Backs

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With the first Game Week approaching, we're finally digging into the position groups to preview the 2016 Auburn Tigers.

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With the season almost here, we're taking a look at previewing the 2016 Auburn Tigers by each position group. The first three can be found in this story stream!

Defensive Backs

I realize these could be split into multiple groups, but there are so many players who may all swap around various positions that I decided to include them all together. Plus, they're all listed as "DB" on the roster and I hate trying to remember who exactly played where and when they did it.

Key Losses -

Blake Countess, Johnathon Jones, Jordan Colbert, Tim Irvin

Key Returnees -

Markell Boston, Carlton Davis, T.J Davis, Joshua Holsey, Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts, Johnathan Ford, Nick Ruffin, Michael Sherwood, Montavious Atkinson*, Jeremiah Dinson **

Newcomers (includes redshirts) -

Javaris Davis, Marshall Taylor, Marlon Character, Jayvaughn Myers, John Broussard JR, Jamel Dean**

*Atkinson could play Nickel, he could play linebacker, he could play a lot of places. That versatility could help him see the field a lot in a Robenson Therezie role.

** Dinson and Dean are unlikely to play this year because of injuries. Could they make it back? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Causes For Optimism

There are a lot of causes for optimism. Josh Holsey - if he stays healthy - is a solid player. Tray Matthews was injured most of last season but played very well when healthy. Stephen Roberts emerged as a quality option at Safety with Matthews injured. Rudy Ford is an excellent Safety/Nickel, and Nick Ruffin has played pretty well, too.

Oh, and there's Carlton Davis in his sophomore season, too. Davis started slow, but by the end of the year, it became obvious that he is one of the best in the SEC and could be one of the best in the nation by the time he leaves Auburn. His name will be up there with Carlos Rogers in Auburn lore if he continues to improve.

All of that, with speedster Javaris Davis thrown in as a redshirt freshman and Marshall Taylor transferring from Miami (Ohio) adds up to a pretty stout secondary. There are definite questions at the Cornerback slot with it looking like a true sophomore and a redshirt freshman will start, but both Rudy Ford and Josh Holsey have played cornerback and can help out there if needed. Montavious Atkinson, as noted above, could be in line for time at Safety or Nickel/LB/Star.

One thing that will make this unit potentially even better is the defensive line. If the defensive line can collapse the pocket and disrupt to quarterbacks, then this unit will have even more potential to create big plays.

Causes For Concern

Auburn has recruited defensive backs very well over the last few years, but there have been issues with injuries and transfers, too. Jamel Dean was almost assured of a starting spot before his knee injury. Holsey has had numerous knee issues. Matthews played with torn muscles in his upper body all season long. If these things pop up again, then Auburn is left with a secondary with a ton of talent but with relatively little experience.

Our starting cornerbacks will be a sophomore and a redshirt freshman. There isn't much in the way of experience directly behind them without moving a few players from Safety. We don't know how much Marshall Taylor will be able to contribute in the early portion of the season.

I'm not terribly concerned about this unit right now, but if a few injuries start to occur, then I'll sweat it out a bit. We may be seeing some of this year's recruiting class - like early enrollee John Broussard JR - if that happens.

Conclusions/Predictions

This is a good, strong, respectable unit. They're enough to win most any game we have on the schedule by themselves. They are, of course, not playing by themselves. They're going to have one of the best defensive lines in recent memory in front of them to terrorize quarterbacks.

Carlton Davis will be All-SEC. Rudy Ford may lead the team in tackles for a record (I think) third straight year, because he's all over the place. Tray Matthews shows how good he is when his upper body muscles aren't torn in multiple places. Stephen Roberts makes the home-town O-Town folks proud.

It will be fun to watch these guys play, and we'll be enjoying a good Auburn defense for the first time in a while.