Rated the number seven defensive line class in the country by Scout.com with four four-star players and two junior college standouts, Auburn's group should be able to help immediately, but more importantly should help to bridge the gap heading into 2015.
With 10 1/2 sacks and 14 1/2 tackles for losses, there is no question that replacing Ford's ability to put pressure on the quarterback was one of the main focal points for the Tigers in this class. While Carl Lawson and LaDarius Owens should be able to pick up the slack next season, behind them there is very little proven depth at the position. Auburn got plenty of help there from three high school signees and a junior college player with the ability to play both inside and outside.
A four-star signee from Georgia Military College, Davonte Lambert was originally committed to Tennessee before switching to the Auburn Tigers during the fall. Capable of playing outside if needed, Lambert has a skill set similar to that of freshman Elijah Daniel. Because of his size he may get a look at tackle, but with his quickness he could also help rush the passer if needed.
How much he's needed may depend on the development of Andrew Williams. Also a four-star prospect, the high school senior from Eagles Landing Christian Academy is a big defensive end already at 6-4 and around 260 pounds. Because of that he should have the size to hold his own, but technique and quickness is a must to get around SEC offensive tackles. Williams will have to learn and learn quickly next preseason to get into the mix.
Two players who have the quickness to get around the edge, but lack the physical presence to be every down players are Justin Thornton and Raashed Kennion. An athletic pass rusher Thornton could be a help on third downs next fall if he can continue to get stronger at the point of attack. That will be his biggest question mark early in his career and that is the case for Kennion as well. Looking more like a small forward at the moment, Kennion is long and has the ability to pressure off the edge, but could use a redshirt year to get stronger.
Even though his stats weren't overwhelming inside at tackle, the loss of Nosa Eguae is a big one from a leadership standpoint. The good news is that Auburn returns a large group of veterans at tackle led by Jeffrey Whitaker, Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson and Ben Bradley. With four seniors to build around at the position and upcoming sophomore Montravius Adams also expected to play a big role in 2014, Auburn was looking for a player who could make immediate impact at tackle but also capable of playing a big role in year two.
At 6-3, 282 pounds Devaroe Lawrence is physically gifted and could be a steal for the Tigers in the 2014 recruiting class, but playing just one season of junior college football after taking a year off following high school puts him behind in terms of his knowledge of the game. Much like Nick Fairley, it won't be surprising to see him take his biggest strides in year two, but because he's already redshirted he should be able to provide immediate depth for the Tigers.
Athletic and capable of getting pressure on the quarterback, four-star Dontavius Russell is another defensive line signee for Auburn in 2014. The 6-3, 300-pounder has good feet and quickness in the middle. He could be a help rushing the passer if he can crack an already deep rotation at the position heading into next season.