If you look at any strong defense on any level of football you will find it starts with solid defensive line play. The good news for Auburn is that the Tigers return plenty of experience and bodies up front, but the bad news is those guys have been largely ineffective since the days of Nick Fairley and company in 2010.
Nosa Eguae, Jeffrey Whitaker, Dee Ford and the rest of a veteran group are hoping that Saturday was the first day of the rest of their Auburn careers. Making plays and stifling Gus Malzahna and the offense for much of the first spring scrimmage, Eguae says it continued a good start for the defense thus far in spring practice.
"Overall the communication was the best it has been all spring," Eguae says. "I feel like guys really communicated well. That just shows that we're starting to come into our own in this defense and with the play calls and starting to understand exactly what to do at each position."
While several position changes have been talked about already this spring including Justin Garrett at the Star position and LaDarius Owens at linebacker, one of the most interesting involves senior defensive lineman Kenneth Carter. A three-year contributor at defensive tackle for the Tigers, Carter has been working outside at defensive end this spring. It's a move that should provide more depth for Coach Rodney Garner and also give the defensive line more size to handle the powerful offensive lines it will face next season.
"We're splitting reps right now," Eguae says. "He's coming out there and getting some experience. It's really good for us. He's still moving inside some and I'm still able to play outside and inside in passing situations. The more versatile we can be up front then the better we'll be in the fall."
Almost at the halfway point of spring practice the Auburn defense has big goals moving forward towards the April 20 A-Day Game and beyond. As far as Eguae is concerned the defense will go as far as the defensive line takes it. Under the guidance of a hard-nosed coach and getting pushed to the limit every day, the senior says that's what it takes to get to the next level.
"Guys know it's going to be a grind when we're out there with Coach Garner," Eguae says. "Coach Garner is going to make practice tougher than it's going to be in a game. Guys are taking it on and going out there every single day trying to get better at their craft. That's what we're doing. We have a long way to go, but if we can continue to get better every single day then we can reach the point we want to be and that's the best defensive line in the SEC."