Elite defense travels. That’s something that has proven true time and time again in college football. Saturday afternoon, Auburn’s elite defense traveled to College Station and absolutely dominated the hapless Aggies’ offense for 3 quarters and some change. It was only when A&M went pass happy while Auburn’s defense shifted to safer coverages to prevent any cheap scores that the A&M offense finally broke through and showed signs of life. But it was too little too late.
Today we will bask in the awesomeness that is Kevin Steele’s defense by taking a look at how many snaps each of Auburn’s defenders played this past Saturday. As always, don’t treat these numbers as gospel. The broadcast angle makes it difficult at times to know who is in at safety and I sometimes find myself a little too wrapped up in the gloriousness of Auburn’s destructive defense that I miss a substitution. But it should at least give you an overall picture of how Steele decided to deploy his personnel.
On with the show....
- #3 Marlon Davidson - 48 snaps
- #1 Big Kat Bryant - 47 snaps
- #91 Nick Coe - 43 snaps
- #5 Derrick Brown - 41 snaps
- #94 Tyrone Truesdell - 31 snaps
- #44 Daquan Newkirk - 20 snaps
- #55 T.D. Moultry - 17 snaps
- #97 Gary Walker - 7 snaps
Before the 2019 season, Auburn’s defensive line was hyped to be possibly the best front 4 in all of college football. Through the first quarter of the Auburn’s opening contest with Oregon, that designation seemed misplaced. But since that off balanced start, this unit has pretty much lived up to all the big talk.
Saturday afternoon they proved it without a doubt.
Auburn set the tone pretty much immediately on the defensive side of the ball and the man who did it was letting Texas A&M know that he would not be kept off the stat sheet today.
For much of the early part of the season, Brown has been a disruptive force whose high level of play has not been reflected in his numbers. This is mostly because teams have either run away from him or double teamed him, often both. All that attention has opened up opportunities for guys like Marlon Davidson and Tyrone Truesdell who have taken full advantage. But Saturday, Brown was going to get his.
His day was filled with highlights but undoubtedly my favorite play was his first sack of the afternoon when he busted through a would be double team to bury Mond.
#55 was the #15 overall player in the 2019 class and is going to be a really good football player one day. But the young man was not at all ready to face the best collegiate defensive tackle in the country. It did not matter who tried to block Brown, it did not work. No doubt when Brown is selected early in the 2020 NFL Draft there will be plenty of plays from this past weekend in his highlight package.
One of the reasons Brown was able to be effective (along with his teammates) is that Rodney Garner is able to give him more breathers without seeing production dip. If you recall, Garner did not have much of a rotation against Oregon with Brown, Davidson and Bryant all playing 60+ snaps. This past Saturday on the road in SEC play, all three were able to play under 50 snaps. Thanks to the emergence of Daquan Newkirk as Auburn’s 3rd defensive tackle and the return of T.D. Moultry, Auburn can give its star defenders more rest without having to worry about giving up yards and points in the process.
The Tigers still need a consistent pass rush threat to emerge on the outside (Tyrone Truesdell is currently Auburn’s sack leader) for this unit to reach its full potential. But as Auburn begins its march through the always difficult SEC schedule, they do so with a solid 8 deep rotation that could continue to grow depending on the health of Derick Hall and the development Coynis Miller.
- #10 Owen Pappoe - 37 snaps
- #33 K.J. Britt - 31 snaps
- #31 Chandler Wooten - 15 snaps
- #10 Zakoby McClain - 12 snaps
After an outstanding debut, Auburn’s linebacker corps had been quiet the past two weeks. That isn’t to say they had been bad, just not as impactful as they were against the Ducks. That changed in a big way Saturday afternoon.
This was the type of game Auburn’s linebackers are well equipped to play. Jimbo’s insistence on trying to establish a rushing attack between the tackles went miserably because Auburn’s front four ate blocks, keeping the Tigers’ linebackers free to flow to the football. And flow to the football they did.
Britt had arguably his best game as a Tiger recording 7 tackles including one for a loss. It seemed like he was everywhere Saturday and if by some miracle A&M’s back wasn’t eaten in the backfield by Auburn’s front 4, Britt was there to bring an uncomfortable end to the run.
- #4 Noah Igbinoghene - 71 snaps
- #23 Roger McCreary - 65 snaps
- #20 Jeremiah Dinson - 55 snaps
- #24 Daniel Thomas - 51 snaps
- #9 Jermaine Sherwood - 39 snaps
- #6 Christian Tutt - 36 snaps
- #13 Javaris Davis - 30 snaps
- #21 Smoke Monday - 22 snaps
I should note that while Texas A&M only officially had 70 plays on offense, I recorded a few plays that were wiped out by penalty while charting the game. That’s why I have Noah Igbinoghene playing more than 70 snaps. From what I can tell, he sat out exactly two defensive snaps Saturday afternoon. He draws Auburn’s toughest assignments on the outside and doesn’t get much rest because he’s also returning kicks. He’s the ironman of this Auburn football team.
You will notice a large number of snaps for Sherwood this week and a lot for Monday even thought he had to sit out the first half yet Dinson and Thomas still saw plenty of action. What’s up? Well Saturday, Kevin Steele used his Dime package more than he has all season resulting in 6 defensive backs on the field a good portion of the game. What’s interesting is he did this even in cases where A&M had 11 and sometimes 12 personnel on the field. That’s a big 180 from last year when he countered the Aggies heavier sets with 3 linebacker personnel groupings of his own.
My guess is Steele wanted speed on the field Saturday. He knew his front four could dominate the Aggies’ offensive line (especially after a few snaps into the game) and that A&M didn’t have a home run threat at running back. The true danger was at wide receiver so he sacrificed some size to make sure he had the speed to not get beat over the top. It worked. While A&M did carve up some big yardage late in the 4th quarter, they had to so methodically and by making catches under duress. Give credit to them for doing so but give even more credit to Steele for making them earn every yard they gained this past weekend.