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2019 Position Preview: Defensive Line

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It starts up front for the defense.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 01 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic - Auburn v Washington Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Rodney Garner has put some REALLY good defensive lines on the field in recent seasons. He’s put a bunch of those linemen in the NFL as well. There’s a chance this season’s iteration could be his best...

Departures

  • Dontavius Russell (7th Round Pick) - 36 tackles (13 solo) 6.0 TFL 1.5 sacks
  • Andrew Williams - 16 tackles (4 solo) 3.0 TFL sack
  • Richard Jibunor (Transfer Portal) - 8 tackles (6 solo) 3.0 TFL 2.0 sacks FF

Returners

  • Derrick Brown (Senior) - 48 tackles (26 solo) 10.5 TFL 4.5 sacks 2 PD FR FF
  • Marlon Davidson (Senior) - 46 tackles (20 solo) 4.5 TFL 2.5 sacks 3 PD
  • Nick Coe (rJunior) - 26 tackles (15 solo) 13.5 TFL 7.0 sacks FF
  • Daquan Newkirk (rJunior) - 7 tackles (2 solo)
  • Big Kat Bryant (Junior) - 18 tackles (10 solo) 4.0 TFL 3.5 sacks INT TD 3 PD FF
  • T.D. Moultry (Junior) - 11 tackles (5 solo) 2.5 TFL 1.5 sacks FF
  • Tyrone Turesdell (Junior) - 9 tackles (6 solo) 0.5 TFL PD
  • Coynis Miller (Sophomore) - 5 tackles (2 solo) TFL
  • Caleb Johnson (rFreshman) - N/A

Newcomers

Strength - NFL Talent

Auburn has a very good chance at fielding the best defensive line in the country in 2019. Derrick Brown, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson all elected to return to play together one more year. That might have been the best recruiting job Auburn did all offseason. The trio combined for 28.5 TFL and 14 sacks in 2018. They will be looking to push that number even higher this season, especially Marlon Davidson who feels he left a lot of missed opportunities on the field in 2018.

Weakness - Unproven Interior Depth

Auburn’s starting four should be REALLY good but for this defensive line to truly be dominant some productive depth must return. Big Kat Bryant, T.D. Moultry and Tyrone Truesdell have seen plenty of action to varying degrees of success. Moultry in particular is someone that needs to step up in 2019. If he can transform into the dominant pass rush threat the staff believed he could be two years ago, this defense gets REALLY nasty.

The real question marks though are in the interior. With Russell and Williams gone, Auburn must fine not only a new battery mate for Derrick Brown but a few bodies to give him some breathers as well. Truesdell looks like the likely starting candidate but both Coynis Miller and Daquan Newkirk have plenty of upside. The issue for both has been injuries, Newkirk in particular. How much Nick Coe has to play inside will be determined by this trio’s development. A true four man interior DL rotation would be huge for Auburn this season

Prediction

I am expecting big years from Brown, Davidson and Coe but for this unit to truly be dominant they need the next wave of producers to emerge. I feel good about Moultry and Big Kat becoming more steady contributors but what happens inside will be what to watch. Coe reportedly spent a lot of time working at defensive tackle this offseason which makes me wonder if the ideal starting four would be Moultry/Coe/Brown/Davidson.

Garner also brought in an outstanding defensive line class and I expect at least one member of that group to see meaningful snaps in 2019. One of Moore or Handy could end up sliding inside too which would be helpful. For my money, I think Wooden is the guy that finds himself in the regular rotation.

War Eagle!