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
Auburn’s new outside linebackers coach Bert Watts gave a good breakdown on the differences in Auburn’s OLB positions. Here’s a nice summary from AuburnObserver’s Justin Ferguson.
Watts explained Auburn’s two edge defender positions — rush vs. STUD — on Wednesday: “They’re mirrored, the two spots. So, you know, sometimes it’s dependent upon what you’re calling — the rush position might be a little bit of a bigger guy, the STUD position might be a little more of the space player.” However, Watts said Auburn has been cross-training its edge guys at both positions, because they want to be able to move them back and forth in the scheme. He compared it to how the Tigers want versatility between Mike and Will linebackers or free and strong safeties. “You want both those players to be able to play both sides of it and understand how it works on both sides.”
When watching A-Day I noticed that the rush end will often line up to the boundary side while the STUD will align to the field which makes sense given Watt’s description of the positions.
- #45 Caleb Johnson | 6’3” | 276 lbs | Junior
- #95 Nick Curtis | 6’5” | 210 lbs | Redshirt Freshman
- #29 Derick Hall | 6’3” | 251 lbs | Junior
- #37 Romello Height | 6’3” | 214 lbs | Sophomore
- #99 TD Moultry | 6’2” | 253 lbs | Senior
- Andrew “Eku” Leota | 6’4” | 250 lbs | Junior
- Dylan Brooks | 6’5” | 250 lbs | Freshman
Can this be Derick Hall’s money year? The junior out of Mississippi was a contributor as a true freshman and a starter as a sophomore but has yet to really emerge as an elite pass rusher. He tallied four sacks last fall but they came in 2 games against LSU and Mississippi State. That production should rise in this new scheme. Especially given Hall’s athleticism and the versatility expected from the STUD in Mason’s system. On a few plays, Hall was split out wide over top the slot receiver and on other snaps dropped into coverage from his outside linebacker position. Watts praised Hall’s consistency this spring and the Tigers are going to need the former 4-star to take the next step this fall.
After Hall, things get interesting. Jaren Handy was working with the 1s at the rush end position during the open practice but wasn’t available during A-Day and has since entered the portal. In his place, Caleb Johnson earned the start and I thought looked pretty good. Johnson was a National Signing Day addition in 2018 and has quietly emerged as a versatile contributor for the Tigers. He looks poised to take a bigger step in 2021 where he should at least see meaningful snaps this fall.
T.D. Moultry’s future seems uncertain as he was not present during Auburn’s open practice or A-Day. However, he’s yet to hit the portal and tweeted about his excitement to play in Jordan-Hare against yesterday so who knows. I have him behind Romello Height for now who took the 2nd team snaps at the STUD on A-Day.
Ya’ll know I am a Romello Height fan and it was hard not to get excited seeing his play during A-Day. Going against Auburn’s starting right tackle Brodarious Hamm, I thought the sophomore more than held his own. His quickness was a problem for Hamm in pass rushing situations but what really stood out was Height’s ability to set the edge. I still think he might be a year way from realizing his full potential but I still believe he has the makings of an elite edge player.
The good news for Watts is that some serious help is on the way. Bryan Harsin’s very first commitment as head coach came from former Northwestern defense end Andrew “Eku” Leota who has more career sacks than anyone on Auburn’s roster. He looks like a perfect fit at the rush end opposite of Hall and it would not surprise me to see him starting come September 4th.
Auburn’s highest rated commit in the 2021 class, Dylan Broooks, has all the tools to thrive in this new scheme. However, I do think he’ll need at least a year of seasoning before being ready to see meaningful snaps against SEC competition. The good news is with Johnson’s emergence and the addition of Leota, Auburn’s shouldn’t need the the top 100 player to be SEC ready day 1. Instead, the staff can bring him along slowly and put him in a position to succeed early in his career. Unquestionably he’s the future at this position.