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
- #23 Roger McCreary | 6’0” | 190 lbs | Senior
- #16 Malcolm Askew | 5’11” | 186 lbs | Senior — OR —
- #24 Eric Reed Jr. | 6’0” | 200 lbs | Sophomore
- #36 Jaylin Simpson | 6’1” | 175 lbs | Sophomore
- #17 Marco Domio | 6’1” | 175 lbs | Senior
- #18 Nehemiah Pritchett | 6’1” | 179 lbs | Junior
- #28 Devin Guice | 5’9” | 165 lbs | Senior
- Dreshun Miller | 6’1” | 192 lbs | Redshirt Junior
- Traivon Leonard | 6’0” | 214 lbs | Senior
- A.D. Diamond | 5’11” | 170 lbs | Freshman
It’s hard not to be excited about Auburn’s cornerback room. Senior Roger McCreary passed on likely being selected in the 3rd round of this year’s NFL Draft electing instead to return to the Plains to prove he’s a first rounder and lead this secondary. Per Pro Football Focus, he has the 5th best career coverage grade among returning cornerbacks.
Highest career coverage grades among returning CBs:— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 11, 2021
Derek Stingley Jr, LSU - 91.9
Sauce Gardner, Cincy - 90.9
Marcus Jones, Houston - 90.9
Kaiir Elam, Florida - 90.7
Roger McCreary, Auburn - 89.9 pic.twitter.com/HgRQtaKlQb
Zac Etheridge’s top cornerback of the last two seasons sits at #3.
But it’s not just McCreary. Jaylin Simpson dazzled in his debut against Kentucky before a an injury late in that game hobbled him for the rest of the year. In his place, Nehemiah Pritchett rose to the occasion and quietly emerged as one of the top corners in the country.
In terms of yards per target allowed, Auburn's Nehemiah Pritchett (@NehemiahP_2019) and Alabama's Josh Jobe (@JoshuaMJobe) had two of the most dominant seasons by cornerbacks in recent SEC history in 2020 pic.twitter.com/NOBIwGuplL— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) February 9, 2021
To get all three on the field this spring, Auburn moved Pritchett to the slot. Those three give the Tigers as good a coverage trio as you will find in the SEC.
But it’s about to get better.
Auburn’s new coaching staff has been aggressive in the portal even at positions where the Tigers likely feel good. Earlier this spring, they landed arguably the top cornerback to hit the portal in former West Virginia DB Dreshun Miller.
What is WVU transfer CB Dreshun Miller bringing to Auburn?— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) February 25, 2021
Statistically speaking, the Tigers will now have three of the nation’s top 20 returning cornerbacks for the 2021 season.
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In today’s game where passing offense reign supreme, you can never have too many dudes that can cover in your defensive backfield and the Tigers will enter 2021 with four of the best. It will be a big opportunity for Zac Etheridge to shine as a developer and a chance for Auburn to build on their recent success putting high quality corners into the NFL.
What happens behind those four will be interesting. 2021 signee Kamal Hadden is already in the portal despite having a solid spring. He was likely sitting #5 on the depth chart and went hunting for playing time. Domio missed A-Day and there’s buzz he could be the next to jump into the portal given Auburn’s depth and his limited remaining eligibility.
Auburn moved Eric Reed and Malcolm Askew back to corner this spring though both are capable of playing safety as well. Reed in particular is someone I am keeping an eye on this fall as he was a big time late win for the Tigers over Georgia back on National Signing Day in 2020. He almost came down with an interception late during A-Day.
The lone remaining corner in the 2021 class is someone I am really excited about. A.D. Diamond’s commitment went under the radar as it occurred during the early period when the Tigers had no coaching staff. However, when I went back to watch his tape, specifically his showing in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, I came away incredibly impressed.
He’s got a great combination of length, fluidity, and speed. He shined as both a wide receiver and a defensive back for Blount. At the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, Alabama freshman Ga’Quincy McKinstry was undoubtedly the top performer. Diamond was unquestionably the 2nd best player on the field and has a great chance of continuing Auburn’s history of finding underrated gems in the Mobile area.