Spring Football Preview: Defensive Ends

Auburn has plenty of options at defensive end heading into spring practice.

Auburn, Ala.—While there are plenty of questions surrounding the Auburn Tigers as they prepare to open spring football practice, defensive end looks to be one of the team's most solid areas where juniors Corey Lemonier and Nosa Eguae anchor a talented and experienced group of returning players.

One of the top defensive ends in the Southeastern Conference, Lemonier is coming off an outstanding 2011 that saw him lead the Tigers in quarterback sacks (9 1/2), tackles for losses (13 1/2), and quarterback pressures (15). A solid contributor opposite Lemonier, Eguae totaled 38 tackles with six for a loss. He also added 12 quarterback hurries, good enough for second on the team.

Nosa Eguae

Behind those two is a big group of players hoping to make noise this spring for new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder as he looks for playmakers on that side of the ball. Leading the way could be redshirt junior Dee Ford. Coming back from an injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, the speedy Ford could be the perfect complement to Lemonier as a player who could come off the edge and push the pocket.

Dee Ford

Also in the mix at that spot is sophomore LaDarius Owens. Playing through some injuries last season, the former linebacker had nine tackles and a sack in six games. Adding more depth will be redshirt freshman Keymiya Harrell.

LaDarius Owens

On the strong side is where things could get very interesting this spring. While Eguae has the experience factor and has played well, he'll be pushed by several players hoping to catch the eye of position coach Mike Pelton.

One of those players is junior Craig Sanders. Playing end and some tackle last fall in addition to his role on special teams, Sanders made 13 tackles with a sack and four and a half tackles for losses last fall. An athletic big man, Sanders could give VanGorder options about where to line him up on a given play.

The same is true of sophomore Devaunte Sigler. Forced to play inside early last season before moving to end, Sigler finished with 10 tackles and a sack in very limited duty. A player who Pelton has described as one of the more talented he's coached, Sigler has the ability to play inside or outside and be a disruptive force.

Devaunte Sigler

More help could come from sophomore Justin Delaine. Delaine has grown physically and showed flashes last season until a knee injury cut his year short after just two games. Joel Bonomolo, who was also injured for much of the year, is not returning to the team for his senior season.

Auburn is scheduled to open spring practices on March 23 with the A-Day game set for April 14 at 2 p.m.

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