One of the deepest and most talented positions on the team heading into the new season, Coach Mike Pelton has plenty of options to work with as Auburn looks for improvement on that side of the ball.
One of the top players at his position in the country, junior Corey Lemonier is the headliner for the Tigers at end after two productive seasons to start his Auburn career. In 2011 he made 47 tackles with a team-high nine and a half sacks while adding 13 ½ tackles for a loss.
As a freshman Lemonier played sparingly for the Tigers on the way to a national championship, but still managed 17 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for a loss. Now bigger and stronger, Lemonier should be one of the focal points of a more active front four in Brian VanGorder's new defensive scheme.
While Lemonier, an All-SEC selection last year, is solidly penciled in at one defensive end position, the other remains in question following very strong spring performances from junior Dee Ford (6-2, 237) and sophomore LaDarius Owens (6-2, 255). With Nosa Eguae out for practice after having surgery, the two took advantage of the opportunity to show VanGorder and Pelton they are capable of jumping into the discussion as potential starters in 2012.
Eguae (6-2, 262) was a fixture on defense last season for the Tigers, starting all 13 games at end. However, he managed just 38 tackles and six tackles for losses without a sack.
Pressure is something VanGorder is looking from out of the edge rushers and that is what both Ford and Owens bring to the table. Ford looks to have the edge on Owens heading into two-a-days because of his more consistent spring, but Owens had a monster spring game to send him into the summer on a high note. The challenge for the number one spot should be a heated one during two-a-days.
A player hoping to break through this season is junior Craig Sanders. Known more as a special teams standout his first two seasons on the Plains, Sanders (6-4, 263) made 13 tackles, one sack and four and a half tackles for losses last season in a reserve role. As a freshman he had eight total tackles with seven coming on special teams. The most physical of the defensive ends, Sanders could be valuable against the run this season.
Providing even more depth will be a pair of guys who have made big strides the last year along with an incoming freshman with the frame to be a power defensive end. A redshirt sophomore, Justin Delaine (6-5, 250) looked good in limited action early in 2011 before going down with a knee injury. Now back to full speed, he could provide some punch at one of the end spots.
Known more as a basketball player in high school, Keymiya Harrell (6-4, 260) used his redshirt season last year to his advantage by taking some huge strides forward. With the size he has added since arriving at Auburn he could be the wildcard at the position because of his athleticism and quickness for a big man.
Rated the number 44 defensive end in the country last year by Scout.com, Gimel President was around 6-4, 250 early in the summer but could very well end up much bigger than that by the time the season rolls around. With a good frame he could be the next Devaunte Sigler, a player that winds up moving to defensive tackle down the road at Auburn. With plenty of experienced depth at defensive end it would be a surprise to see President make a huge impact as a true freshman.