Lemonier went on to earn All-SEC recognition after burning SEC offensive linemen for 10 sacks and 47 total tackles as a sophomore.
Ford made seven tackles and a sack through three games, but the breakout season many hoped he'd have would have to wait.
The Odenville, Ala., product went down in Auburn's third game, suffering a herniated disc against Clemson that caused pain and a tingling sensation in the junior defensive lineman's right leg.
"I was about to cry, couldn't go to sleep at night," said Ford. "Mine was pretty intense because I tried to play with it. I was getting weak. I couldn't really step on it anymore."
Soon after, Ford ended up getting a discectomy, a procedure done to remove a herniated disc from the spinal canal.
"I wasn't even concerned going into surgery because I knew the biggest thing for me was going to be tightening my core and everything will be tight and in place," he said. "Nothing will come back out, so I was like ‘well, that's easy for me. I'm a workaholic.'"
With the injury Ford shifted his workouts to focus on strengthening his core. He also discovered yoga, which he said he used extensively during rehabilitation.
"You'll be shocked, but it will increase your athleticism almost instantly if you even do one," said Ford of doing yoga exercises. "I did a lot of yoga, a lot of core work, which I hated, I would would never do on my own. But now I will since that was my treatment, that was my rehab was core."
Ford said he feels like he could have come back to play after about two months of rehab, but he ended up sitting out the rest of the season and receiving a medical redshirt.
With more than half of Auburn's spring practices complete, the 6-2, 237-pound Ford said he feels normal and that his back isn't causing him any trouble.
By all accounts, Ford and Lemonier are causing havoc in the offensive backfield so far this spring in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's pressure-heavy defense.
"I think Dee Ford is coming back to playing form, which is really good to see coming off that injury," said Auburn coach Gene Chizik after Monday's practice. "Him and Corey Lemonier at the ends can give you some speed on edge that is really, really challenging for the tackles, which is good to see."
One offensive tackle who Ford is working hard against in practice is redshirt freshman Greg Robinson, who he calls quick and explosive with good mobility.
"I'm just trying to get him better and get me better at the same time," noted Ford.
Ford, who is lining up opposite Lemonier instead of back him up, said that getting to the quarterback is priority number one for the defensive ends.
"It was a fantasy at first, now it's here," said Ford of working opposite Lemonier. "I can't even explain it."