While the defensive line deservedly got the headlines last year, Auburn’s secondary play was as strong as it has been in years. Led by two senior safeties and a lockdown corner, Auburn led the country in pass defense S&P+ and were 5th in success rate allowed on passes at just 31.8%. Now those safeties are gone, and so is the lockdown corner. What is left?
While Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts, and Carlton Davis have departed, there is plenty of talent remaining. Jamel Dean and Javaris Davis split time at the opposite cornerback spot last year, and now they both return with plenty of playing time. Jeremiah Dinson returned from his cheap-shot induced injury in 2015 to play very well at nickel. Daniel Thomas got plenty of playing time at safety, and he seems to be taking at least one of the starting spots for his own this spring. John Broussard Jr should add depth at corner. Jordyn Peters was a skinny freshman who managed a sack and forced fumble along with his two pass breakups, one of which you might remember...
Redshirt sophomore JayVaughn Myers saw limited action last season, but he and redshirt freshman Malcolm Askew should add depth.
Who is coming in?
If you have to lose three players with the talent of Tray Matthews, Stephen Roberts, and Carlton Davis, then it’s nice to have three consensus 4-star early enrollees. Smoke Monday, Jamien Sherwood, and Christian Tutt are blue-chip talents that are already pushing for starting positions.
Another “new” player to the secondary is sophomore Noah Igbinoghene. Iggy played mostly running back and wide receiver last year, but has practiced at cornerback this spring. Coach Gus Malzahn has said that he will still be an option on offense, but it appears he will only play defense during A-Day. Iggy is lightning fast with great agility, and those traits could serve him very well at corner.
The last “addition” isn’t actually a player. It is Assistant Coach Marcus Woodson, who was hired as the 10th assistant coach soon after it was approved by the NCAA. Woodson coached defensive backs at Memphis last season. While Memphis didn’t have an overpowering defense, their secondary was their strength, finishing 5th in Havoc Rate among DBs and pulling in 14 interceptions. Auburn managed just 6 interceptions last year, all by DBs, despite having a high number of passes defensed. Hopefully Coach Woodson can improve those numbers in 2018.
When the C&M crew discussed positions leading up to A-Day, the secondary is what stuck out to me. There is a ton of talent in this group, but there aren’t many known quantities. I think it’s going to be the fun group to watch this afternoon. Especially with two relatively inexperienced quarterbacks and several inexperienced wide receivers.