Auburn, Ala.--Despite Corey Lemonier deciding to skip his senior year, the defensive end position is one of the more experienced for Coach Gus Malzahn's Tigers heading into Auburn's 2013 football season.
The Tigers return a pair of seniors with substantial starting experience at end with Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae back along with another senior, Kenneth Carter, who has starting experience at tackle.
Carter's move to end in spring training gives new position coach Rodney Garner the option of putting more size at end where neither Ford nor Eguae are big guys. Ford checks in at 6-2, 245 pounds and Eguae is 6-3, 268. Carter is 6-4, 287 pounds as he returns to a spot he played at Greenville High School before moving inside to tackle as a freshman at Auburn.
Garner and new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson are counting on Ford's combination of quickness and experience to give the Tigers a strong outside pass rusher. At the end of spring drills Johnson said he liked Ford's potential to be effective at consistently pressuring quarterbacks.
Last season Ford finished with six sacks and eight QB pressures. The Tigers need those numbers to at least double this fall and the same is true with Ford's totals of 23 solo tackles and 11 assists.
Eguae missed spring practice last year due to a shoulder injury, but he bounced back to start seven times. He made 34 total tackles playing in all 12 games, but needs to become more effective in making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Last year he was credited with just one sack and two quarterback hurries.
Another senior who could contribute is Craig Sanders. After three of years of adding weight he has dropped around 20 pounds this year to regain his old quickness. At 6-4, 242 he has a chance to see more playing time this season than he did last fall when he made just nine tackles.
Nosa Equae pressures Kiehl Frazier in Auburns 2013 spring football game.
Although LaDarius Owens moved from end to linebacker in spring drills, the Tigers have other options at the position. Justin Delaine, a 6-5, 240 junior, is hoping to stay healthy and have a breakout season.
Keymiya Harrell, a redshirt freshman with promise at the position, saw his spring training end prematurely with an ACL injury. Whether or not he will be able to contribute this fall is still to be determined. Another redshirt freshman looking for playing time is Gimel President, who was a Parade All-American as a high school senior in South Carolina.
Carl Lawson (right) talks with fellow Auburn freshman Montravius Adams during the Under Armour All-American Game.
A pair of true freshmen could help with the pass rushing duties based on their history as high school standouts. Under Armour All-American Carl Lawson, who made 41 sacks the past two seasons at Milton High in Alpharetta, joins the competition for playing time this preseason along with 6-3, 250 Elijah Daniel from Avon, Ind., High School. Also a highly-recruited player, Daniel has the type of quickness that should help him adjust to the collegiate game. Lawson, who is 6- 1/2, 255, isn't big by college defensive end standards, but he is unusually strong so physically he looks ready to contribute.
If both of the incoming freshmen are ready to be impact players there is no reason why end Auburn's performance at the defensive end spots shouldn't be better this year. As a group the defensive ends came up short last season, which played a key role in the Tigers having one of the worst defensive units in the SEC in 2012.