Sneak Peek: Defensive Depth Chart

By May 15, 2020ESPN 106.7 News

Yesterday, we took a look at the what the offense might look like for Auburn in 2020. Today, we dissect the defense.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Defensive end- Big Kat Bryant, Sr.

  • Jaren Handy, So.
  • Zykeivous Walker, Fr.
  • Caleb Johnson, So.

Defensive tackle- Tyrone Truesdell, Sr.

  • Dre Butler, Jr.
  • Jay Hardy, Fr.

 Defensive tackle- DaQuan Newkirk, Sr.

  • Coynis Miller, Jr.
  • Marquis Burks, Jr.
  • Daniel Foster-Allen, Fr.

Buck- Derick Hall, So.

  • D. Moultry, Sr.
  • Colby Wooden, RFr.
  • Romello Height, Fr.

This unit takes a hit, there’s no denying that, but it isn’t a blow that can’t be absorbed.

Both Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson were taken in the first and second rounds of the NFL Draft, and Nick Coe was signed shortly after. But, the Tigers continue to reload, as we have come to expect since defensive line coach Rodney Garner arrived on the Plains.

Experienced seniors Big Kat Bryant and Tyrone Truesdell headline the group, both primed for breakout seasons in their senior campaigns. The other defensive tackle spot will be the biggest question mark, depending on who steps up between Newkirk and Miller. Newkirk has had a difficult time staying on the field, battling injuries in his three years on campus, but if he can stay healthy then the former top JUCO prospect could really be an asset for this team plugging the middle. At Buck, there should be healthy competition between Hall and Moultry, both of which have shown potential to be menaces rushing the passer.

Auburn brought in a lot of young talent too, signing a Top 10 class in 2020, so the depth and versatility should be there for Garner to use a variety of players and situational packages like we have seen in the past. Two newcomers to watch that could make an impact immediately in 2020 are Zykeivous Walker and Dre Butler. Walker was a four-star defensive end, the No. 3 strongside end in the class, and Butler was one of the most sought after JUCO prospects in the country. Now, Walker is at a position that is definitely more of an uphill climb for playing time, but Butler is at a position that is wide open and he was brought in to play right away.

Even with the losses of Brown, Davidson and Coe, this unit has the potential to be one of the best in the SEC.

LINEBACKERS

 Inside- K.J. Britt, Sr.

  • Chandler Wooten, Sr.
  • C. Brothers, RFr.
  • Cam Riley, Fr.
  • Kameron Brown, RFr.

 Outside- Owen Pappoe, So.

  • Zakoby McClain, Jr.
  • Wesley Steiner, Fr.
  • Josh Marsh, So.
  • Desmond Tisdol, Fr.

Linebackers coach Travis Williams returns what he hopes can be the best linebacker corps in the conference. Four key contributors return at the second level, including 2019 First Team All-SEC member K.J. Britt. Britt, Pappoe, Wooten and McClain will all build on last year’s success and as long as they can avoid injury, this unit will be elite.

The Tigers also signed three four-star linebackers in the 2020 class, with Steiner, Tisdol and Riley. Pappoe came in as a true freshman last year and earned a starting spot and although I don’t see anything like that happening again this year, Steiner has the makings of a future All-SEC linebacker. There will be good competition from top to bottom so, at the very least, there will be little room for complacency.

SECONDARY

Cornerback- Roger McCreary, Jr.

  • Devan Barrett, Sr.
  • Jaylin Simpson, RFr.
  • Jashawn Sheffield, RFr.

Cornerback- Marco Domio, Jr.

  • Nehemiah Pritchett, So.
  • Traivon Leonard, Sr.
  • Eric Reed Jr., Fr.

Nickel- Christian Tutt, Jr.

  • Jordyn Peters, Sr.
  • Ladarius Tennison, Fr.

Safety- Jamien Sherwood, Jr.

  • Chris Thompson, Fr.
  • Zion Puckett, RFr.

Safety- Smoke Monday, Jr.

  • Malcolm Askew, Jr.
  • Matthew Hill, So.

There are a lot of question marks in this secondary, a secondary that loses all four of its starters to the NFL. Noah Igbinoghene was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, Daniel Thomas in the fifth, and both Javaris Davis and Jeremiah Dinson were signed as undrafted free agents. There’s a lot of experience and skill to replace.

McCreary, a long and athletic corner that was Auburn’s highest rated defensive back in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus, is expected to be the No. 1 and shoulder the load. He will have a lot of responsibility and will have to handle high expectations considering he broke out last year and played significant minutes in all 13 games. The mystery lies with who will line up opposite McCreary. The nickel position is in good hands with returning veterans Tutt and Peters, but Kevin Steele’s defense will need one of Domio, Pritchett, etc. to step up. Domio, who was one of the highest-rated JUCO defensive backs, was recruited for this very reason: to fill a void immediately at a position of need. He is a bigger corner standing 6-foot-1 and is an explosive athlete, so I think eventually the Tigers will need him to become an everyday starter.

At the safety position, Sherwood and Monday are ready to fill the shoes of Dinson and Thomas, having served as backups the last two years. Both have had experience, have been in high-stress situations in big games and should be playmakers in the defense. Depth behind them is worrisome however with loads of inexperience, so they cannot afford any devastating injuries.