Five Auburn Defenders Poised to Have a Breakout Year
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:
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.