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Spring Review: Defensive Line

This unit has a chance to make a major step forward this fall.

Auburn v South Carolina Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Bryan Harsin’s very first spring practice is in the books. Over the next 2 weeks, I’ll take a look at where each position group stands as we head into the long summer off-season.

Post Spring Depth Chart

Defensive End

  • #25 Colby Wooden | 6’5” | 278 lbs | Sophomore
  • #3 Zykeivous Walker | 6’4” | 289 lbs | Sophomore
  • #90 Daniel Foster-Allen | 6’4” | 258 lbs | Redshirt Freshman

Nose Tackle

  • #94 Tyrone Truesdell | 6’2” | 335 lbs | Senior
  • #76 Jeremiah Wright | 6’5” | 338 lbs | Sophomore
  • #44 Lee Hunter | 6’4” | 321 lbs | Freshman

Defensive Tackle

  • #92 Marquis Burks | 6’3” | 314 lbs | Senior
  • #49 Dre Butler | 6’5” | 298 lbs | Junior
  • #89 J.J. Pegues | 6’3” | 308 lbs | Sophomore

Summer Additions

  • Ian Mathews | 6’5” | 270 lbs | Freshman
  • Tobechi Okoli | 6’5” | 255 lbs | Freshman
  • Marquis Robinson | 6’4” | 300 lbs | Freshman

Spring Review

I was most interested on A-Day in seeing how Derek Mason plans to structure his defense. Unsurprisingly, Auburn’s base scheme is a traditional 3-4 featuring a nose tackle and two defensive ends. However, Auburn spent most of their time in a new 2-4-5 nickel package. This is a change from Kevin Steele’s scheme which would remove a linebacker when adding an extra defensive back and usually showing a hybrid 3-3-5 front with the BUCK sometimes having a hand in the ground and sometimes aligned as an outside linebacker.

Under Mason, Auburn removes the nose tackle when adding the extra DB and only plays with two down lineman. The positive of this change is that Auburn will always have 2 true pass rushers on the field at the outside linebacker positions. The negative is that those 2 interior lineman better be able to hold their ground against double teams and keep the linebackers clean in the run game. Which is why you are seeing Auburn’s defensive line recruiting change under this new regime. The Tigers are really honing in on wide bodied athletes that can eat space.

Unsurprisingly, Colby Wooden looks to be the leader of this group. The redshirt sophomore had a breakout campaign last fall leading the team in tackles for loss. His versatility should be on full display in this new scheme where on one snap he could lined up as a 5 tech over top a tackle before sliding in to line up over the guard on the next. He struggled at times holding up to double teams in the interior last season so I am interested to see what strides he makes this season given how often he’ll be inside in Auburn’s nickel packages.

Jeremiah Wright was the breakout player of the spring on defense until he went down with an ACL injury. That thrusted former JUCO signee Marquis Burks into the spotlight as the Chicago native appears to have earned a starting gig and really flashed during A-Day. This new scheme seems to be a better fit for his skillset and he could be in line for a surprisingly strong season.

Auburn is set to add three true freshman to the rotation and as noted earlier could also be signing a true nose tech to help the interior of this defense. Of Auburn’s three freshman enrolling in the summer, I am keeping a close eye on Marquis Robinson as I believe the blue chip out of Florida is a perfect fit for Mason’s system and could crack the rotation by season end.

War Eagle!