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Five Auburn Defenders Poised to Have a Breakout Year

By on July 31st, 2013 in Football 11 Comments »

Auburn University is the twelfth most winningest football program in Division I history. And over the years, the Tigers have always been characterized as a tough and physical defensive football team. Yet last season nothing was as uncharacteristic for Auburn than fielding a defense that gave up big numbers to Texas A&M as well as to the Tigers’ two biggest rivals.

That’s just not acceptable at Auburn. And that’s why Gus Malzahn said when he was hired that his top priority was to bring the hard nose play back to the program.

For the Tigers to get back to their winning ways though, they will need some players to turn in some All – conference breakout performances in the upcoming season.

Last week here at Track ’em Tigers we took a look at five players from the offense who I believe are poised to make that type of impact. This week we look at five defensive players that could be very important in turning things around on The Plains.

Here are five defensive players that are set to have a breakout season heading into 2013:

7_458694* Gabe Wright, Defensive Tackle

Gabe was rated as the No. 3 Defensive Tackle in the Nation by ESPN coming out of high school. Although he has yet to live up to his potential, the 6′, 3″ 300 lb. lineman has shown flashes of  greatness in his nine career starts including two sacks, a fumble recovery, and nine tackles for a loss.

The Tigers need defensive linemen that can create havoc in opposing team’s backfield. Many think that Gabe can be a Nick Fairley type disruptive force but he has yet to consistently live up to his potential. Expect new D-Line Coach Rodney Garner to bring the “Fairley” out of him this year.

* Kenny Flowers, Linebacker

His name is not a familiar one to Auburn fans but get ready to hear his number called often. Defensive Coordinator, Ellis Johnson said the other day “You don’t sign junior-college players to come in and redshirt.”

A 5-star transfer, from Hutchinson Community College and the No.3 Inside Linebacker in the nation should make an immediate impact on run support. Everyone knows that tackling is the area that was most lacking on last year’s squad. Well the good news on Flowers is the 6′,2″, 230 pounder led the Blue Dragons with 95 tackles last season.

Coach Johnson has said he has high expectations for Kenny and will start him Friday in fall practice at the Will Linebacker spot and possibly move him to the middle after the season is underway.

Chris Davis, Cornerback.

Although Davis has 16 career starts at cornerback his career has been hindered by shoulder injuries and a serious concussion last season. Like Gabe Wright he has the potential for greatness. He just needs to stay healthy to excel as a cornerback.

The Tigers really need him to be at his best this year to improve on the Tigers’ last place finish in league interceptions in 2012.  New cornerbacks coach, Melvin Smith thinks that the senior can really have an impact on turning that statistic around.

Probably the most improved player from last spring, Chris has earned the respect of coaches and players a like. Coach Malzahn said, he expects him to successfully lead the Cornerbacks in 2013.

  11756362-large- Josh Holsey* Josh Holsey, Safety

At 5′, 11″ 200 lbs. Josh Holsey was one of the few bright spots in the Tiger D last season. As a freshman cornerback he had one of the team’s two interceptions and came close to making several more. In addition he had six pass break ups and made 30 tackles.

This year’s coaching staff  respects his ability so much that he is being crossed trained at cornerback and safety. He will begin fall camp at safety but may see time at cornerback during the season. Expect Josh Holsey to be a key component in the Auburn secondary this year.

 AUBURN FOOTBALL* Justin Garrett, Linebacker

This choice is no surprise to anyone who watched the A-Day game. Garrett earned the ‘star’ position (the key role) in Ellis Johnson’s defense during the spring.

Although he only has 23 tackles and two career starts, he demonstrated a nose for the ball during the spring and an ability for playing in the box and dropping into coverage – an important requirement for the ‘star’ position.

Johnson said during the spring that, “Garrett’s been the best player we’ve had on defense … He’s probably played as well as any player on that side of the ball.”

One month from today Auburn kicks off the 2013 football season against Washington State. I hope the Tigers start off and continue with a shockingly hard nose defense. The outcome of the season may hinge on it.

Which Auburn defensive player do you think is most likely to have a breakout year?

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  1. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    I chose the “Other” option.

    Your choices are all very good ones, and I am not arguing against any of them. I would humbly submit the following list. Call ’em 5A:
    Nick(sp) Marshall
    Jermaine Whitehead
    Kris Frost
    Carl Lawson

    Each of these three will have a positive impact on Auburn’s defense this year, and set the tone for great things next season.
    I enjoyed the article very much.


  2. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    Will believe hype only when i see the effort. Then and only then will AU be back in it traditional ways. So far… only talk.


  3. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..After watching A-Day, I had to join the majority and vote for Garrett. He wasn’t perfect, mind you. In particular, he turned a guy loose for a wide open TD, once. Inexperience at work. However, he ran sideline to sideline, fought off blocks, and was a sure tackler. That’s certainly what we need at that spot!

  4. War Damn Alan says:

    Dee Ford. Period. He may have lead the team in sacks last year but his numbers were far from one of our terrors-off-the-edge from days gone by. I have always thought he was the more talented end compared to Lemonier. He looked poised to be that “terror” before he hurt his back in 2011. He has been relatively good and by far our best returning defensive lineman, but I believe it will be his breakout year because he has not performed anywhere near his potential and once he’s healthy he’ll be that dominant player that really sticks out.

    I would vote Gabe Wright as a close second but that could be interchangeable (hopefully an “and” instead of “or”) with Jeff Whitaker. They just HAVE to be more talented than what they’ve shown. That could be said for the whole team. The old coaching staff did these kids wrong with letting the program get to laxed. The nail in the coffin was taking away Yox’s authority. That was just a shame because he created some tough teams while he was here.

  5. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    I hope ALL of them have a breakout year.

  6. PhilTheTiger says:

    I like this list alot…Can I add some names that haven’t been mentioned?

    D-Line- Dee Ford or Carl Lawson
    Linebackers- Kris Frost
    DBs- Demetruce McNeal

    Honorable Mention to Johnathon Mincy and Angelo Blackson

  7. PhilTheTiger says:

    But I Hope everyone plays well! #WDE

  8. Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

    Bazinga! Good stuff!

  9. Malakai Malakai says:

    I’m just tired of seeing AU give up the short pass of five-six yards at a time. Corners played way too loose last year and when they did stick their men they were burned because they couldn’t keep up – with anybody. Yes the front line and pass rush is critical but I think AU will succeed or fail on defense based on the improvements (or lack thereof) of their secondary and linebackers.

  10. Todd92 Todd92 says:

    Justin Garret is the obvious choice because of the flexibility of his position and his nonstop motor. But I agree with others on here about some names left off… Kris Frost, Cassanova McKinzy, Demetruce McNeal, Carl Lawson, Nosa Eguae, Jeffrey Whittaker…. The list goes on and any of the defensive backs.