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2020 Class Preview: Defensive Tackle

A look at some of Auburn’s top interior defensive line targets in the 2020 class.

Damarjhe Lewis’s Twitter:

Last Monday, I kicked off a position by position preview of the 2020 class with every intention of having the defensive tackle preview up that same week. Unfortunately, the Nerd house was ravaged by illnesses shortly after that first article, thus delaying this lovely preview series. Thankfully, the worst of the storm appears to have passed and so we can hopefully proceed on without any other significant interruptions. But with a two year old and a three month old, trouble is always lurking around the corner....

2020 Class Preview: QB

ANYWAYS, on with the talk of the 2020 class. My plan is to jump back and forth between offense and defense in this series so it’s the defense’s turn today starting with the defensive tackle position. I should note that the olden days of clear nose tackles, 3 techs and defensive ends have passed. Auburn uses their defensive lineman more ubiquitously these days with guys lining up one snap as a 1 tech before sliding out to a 5 in another front. But if I did a full preview on ALL of Auburn’s defensive line targets then this would be a monster article. So in an effort to keep this non-novel size, we will break up the defensive line based on how they are listed on 247’s site. Just know that some of these guys might end up playing on the outside and some of the ends could slide inside at the next level.

No position has become as steady both on or off the field for the Tigers as the defensive line position. You typically know Rodney Garner is going to land some studs on signing day and those guys are going to turn into productive players for the Tigers come Saturdays in the fall. Last cycle, Auburn took only really three true defensive line prospects in Jaren Handy, Charles Moore, and Colby Wooden. With Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson set to graduate and the constant threat of attrition looming over the roster, I expect Auburn to sign at least a four-man class up front, not including Buck prospects. My guess is at least two of those signees will be more interior focused players who we will look at today.

First, let’s take a quick look at some defensive tackles committed elsewhere that I don’t see Auburn having a great shot at flipping this cycle. Obviously things change fast in recruiting so some of these names could end up realistic targets but for now, I feel pretty comfortable saying they won’t land in Auburn’s class.

  • 4* Jayson Jones (Alabama) - Jones made some headlines last week when he said he was no longer impressed with the Tide. Personally, I think that was more of a stunt for attention and fully expect him to end up with the Tide come signing day.
  • 4* Jamil Burroughs (Georgia) - Auburn was one of Burroughs top schools before his commitment but he was long thought to be a Dawg lean and I don’t see him flipping anywhere right now.
  • 4* Jaquelin Roy (LSU) - Ed O did a solid job of locking down the “Boot” in 2019 and is off to a fast start as well in 2020. Typically, if a Louisiana kid of Roy’s talent flips somewhere it’s to Bama, not Auburn.

Next, there are a couple of uncommitted prospects Auburn has offered I don’t see landing with the Tigers as of today.

  • 4* Branard Wright - The Texas native appears to be trending to LSU at this time.
  • 4* Warren Brinson - Once a Dawg commit, Brinson reopened his recruitment in late January and now appears to be relatively open. However, he has not visited Auburn to my knowledge and it sounds like Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma are the teams trending up at the moment.

So with those names eliminated, let’s take a closer look at the remaining defensive tackle targets that hold an Auburn offer including one early Tiger commit.

5* McKinnley Jackson | 6’2” | 324 lbs | Lucedale, MS

Top Teams: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas A&M

Recruitment: A one time LSU commit, Jackson is the hottest commodity in the Magnolia State this go around. Auburn had great success recruiting Mississippi in the 2019 cycle and would love for that to continue in 2020 with Jackson. But they face some stiff competition from pretty much everyone in the SEC. There is some early confidence in Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa and Oxford that those programs are in a good spot but don’t count out the Tigers. They hosted Jackson a number of times last year and he should be back on campus again in the near future.

Scouting Report: Jackson is a big man that can move. He’s dominant inside making it VERY difficult for opponents to do much of anything in the run game. He plays with a high motor, always in pursuit despite being a 325 lb nose tackle. He’s probably not going to be a 5+ sack guy a year but he can be a dominant run defender. It’s easy to see why he’s considered one of the best DL prospects in the country this cycle.

4* Jalen Carter | 6’4” | 301 lbs | Apopka, FL

Top Teams: Auburn, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina

Recruitment: Early on, it appears Carter’s recruitment is pretty wide open. He told 247 at an Under Armour All-America camp two weekends ago that the instate programs were coming at him hard along with Louisville and UNC. I am interested to see if he makes a trip to the Plains in the coming months. It should also be noted that Carter could play on the offensive side of the ball as well and actually spends a lot of time as a blocking TE for his high school offense.

Scouting Report: An elite athlete, most of Carter’s junior tape is him actually delivering devastating blocks as a TE. In those reps, you can see both his strength and athleticism as he consistently reaches defenders in the 2nd level and flattens them. On defense, he’s explosive out of his stance and dominant in the run game. His future is most likely in the interior where I think he could become a VERY talented pass rusher from the 3 tech. I’m a big fan of Carter’s skillset and would love to see him in orange and blue next year.

4* Nazir Stackhouse | 6’4” | 287 lbs | Decatur, GA | Georgia Commit

Top Teams: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia

Recruitment: Stackhouse was one of Georgia’s first commits in the 2020 cycle. He gave his verbal pledge to the Dawgs back in December of 2017 and has remained loyal since that commitment. But that hasn’t stopped him from taking visits and he’s recently been on campus at Auburn and Alabama. I don’t know how big a threat the Tigers are to flip the big man but he’s a name to watch in the coming months to see if he makes a return trip to the Plains. Specifically, I’m interested to see if he visits for Big Cat Weekend later this year.

Scouting Report: Stackhouse is the exact type of defensive line prospect Rodney Garner loves to recruit. For his old high school Stephenson, he would line up all across the line in different fronts, something that will be expected of him if he were to sign with Auburn. He excels at using his length to stack would be blockers, finding the ball and then shedding his man to go make the play. I suspect he’s a highly coveted target for Auburn’s defensive line coach.

4* Willie Moise | 6’3” | 291 lbs | Hollywood, FL | Miami Commit

Top Teams: Auburn, Florida State, Miami, TCU

Recruitment: Moise committed to the Canes back in March of 2018 but that hasn’t shut down his recruitment. However, I think Manny Diaz returning to be head coach for Miami has made this flip a LOT tougher to pull off. Still, Moise has said he’s keeping his options open just in case and I wouldn’t be surprised if he visited the Plains in the coming months. He visited Auburn last summer and mentioned the Tigers and Sooners as two out of state schools he was keeping an eye on.

Scouting Report: Moise doesn’t necessarily have the measurables you might want in an elite DT prospect but spend anytime watching his tape and you quickly realize he’s on the calibre of any top interior defensive lineman in this class. Moise is explosive at the snap, typically winning by just beating his opponent off the line. He’s a bull inside, putting together multiple moves to get by his blocker and disrupt the offense. I like how he’s always fighting, countering moves that are stymied on first contact. Miami is gonna have to fight to hold onto this kid because everyone in the country will be pursuing by the end of this cycle.

4* Eric Taylor | 6’4” | 280 lbs | Trussville, AL

Top Teams: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Recruitment: I think this recruitment is pretty clear. If Alabama wants him, they will get him. Taylor has been a frequent visitor to the Capstone and two of his teammates are currently committed to the Tide. If they elect to pass is when things could get interesting. He will have his pick of SEC programs, including Auburn though I don’t get a strong feeling early on the Tigers are a major threat in this race. That could change depending on how things shakeout with Alabama and how things go with other top targets for the Tigers.

Scouting Report: A fluid athlete capable of playing inside or outside at the next level, Taylor is probably best suited as a defensive tackle in college. He moves vey well and has the length you like to see in DTs. Not necessarily a disruptive pass rusher, Taylor does do a great job shooting gaps and getting into backfield at times untouched. He might have to learn to play a bit more gap sound at the next level but has the tools to become a top notch DL.

3* Damarjhe Lewis | 6’3” | 278 lbs | Griffin, GA | Auburn Commit

Top Teams: Auburn, Georgia Tech, Florida, Tennessee

Recruitment: It’s already been a wild ride early for the Tigers at defensive line in the 2020 class and that could continue. Lewis is probably Auburn’s least solid commit currently and is getting plenty of attention from other programs most notably Georgia Tech. He visited there recently and admitted the Yellow Jackets were giving him plenty to think about. He’s still committed to the Tigers but I would put his status as very soft for the moment. We will see how hard Auburn fights to keep him on board.

Scouting Report: As for his tape, you can see why Auburn was willing to accept his commitment so early this cycle. The GA native is strong at the point of attack, violent at contact and has a motor that’s running nonstop. He could slide outside and play SDE if needed too but his future is most likely between the B gaps. Probably not a threat to be a top notch pass rusher, Lewis is someone that can help consistently snuff out rushing attacks.

3* Leviticus Madison | 6’3” | 290 lbs | Meridian, MS

Top Teams: Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss

Recruitment: I don’t have a ton of insight into this recruitment but being a Mississippi kid those instate programs are definitely ones to watch. Interestingly, 247 does not have Auburn listed as having offered the Mississippi standout but Rivals does.

Scouting Report: A nose guard all the way at the next level, Madison is a physical presence in the interior. He’s not easily moved at the point of attack and relies greatly on his overwhelming strength right now to dominate his opponent. While not necessarily an elite athlete, Madison does fit that role of gap stuffer who could open up opportunities for his teammates up front.

Emanuel Rogers | 6’5” | 300 lbs | Jensen Beach, FL

Top Teams: Auburn, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Oregon

Recruitment: There is very little info out there on Rogers’s recruitment but his early offer list is impressive. The Tigers snagged Jamien Sherwood out of Jensen Beach two cycles ago so they have some familiarity with the area and program. We will see if Rogers shows up on any visitor lists in the near future.

Scouting Report: Well first off, Rogers absolutely checks the “frame” box. At 6’5” 300 lbs, he’s a big ole fella and it stands out on Friday nights. He also possesses overwhelming strength which is what he seems to rely on the most currently to cause disruption. Because of that, his handwork and pad level is not where it needs to be a consistent performer at next level. That’s ok, that’s what Rodney Garner is here for. What he will bring is a skillset capable of developing into an interior force. Also at his size, he could flip over to OT if needed.

Up Next: Running Back

War Eagle!