With starters Dee Ford, Nosa Eguae, Jake Holland, Chris Davis and Ryan Smith gone along with several other key contributors, there will be plenty of competition for spots on the depth chart leading up to April 19th's A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
With that in mind we look at 10 Tigers who have a chance to make a big move on the defensive side of the ball in spring practice.
A solid contributor his entire college career with the Tigers at wide receiver, Reed is making the move to cornerback for spring practice. Natural in his ability to turn his hips and with good speed and length, Reed could be one of the biggest surprises for Auburn in the spring because of the opportunity for early playing time at cornerback.
A physical defensive lineman who was recruited as a defensive end by Coach Rodney Garner, Daniel made most of his impact inside last season for the Tigers as a situational pass rusher on third downs. Playing in a backup role, Daniel made nine tackles with two and a half sacks and three tackles for losses as a true freshman. He added 11 quarterback hurries to tie for second on the team in that department.
With Ford gone and plenty of depth inside at tackle, Daniel will have a chance to show what he can do outside this spring. If he can get to the quarterback from the edge as well as he did from his inside spot, that would be good news for the Auburn defense.
Elijah Daniel will be a sophomore this fall.
With Chris Davis gone from last season's already depleted secondary group, finding a dependable sidekick for senior Jonathon Mincy is going to be a huge emphasis this spring. The guy who has the best shot to take over a starting role is speedy Jonathan Jones. Missing three full games with a foot injury, Jones made 11 tackles as a sophomore and has the potential to be a breakout performer if he can stay healthy.
Playing in 13 games last season as a true freshman, Montravius Adams is a physical freak who should see make strides as a tackle with a season under his belt and having the opportunity to go through spring practice. With so much depth at the defensive tackle position, Coach Rodney Garner is looking for the guy to step up his game and become a consistent force in the middle of the defense. Adams could be just that guy.
Losing senior starter Ryan Smith and key reserve Ryan White, playing time at the safety position alongside senior Jermaine Whitehead is available for guys in spring practice. With Josh Holsey likely out for the spring as he recovers from a knee injury, junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief has a great opportunity to make an instant impact for Coach Charlie Harbison. With his combination of size and speed, Moncrief has all the tools to be a big-time player for the Tigers if he can pick up the defense in a timely fashion this spring.
Playing both cornerback and running back for Auburn last fall, Ford will make a full-time move to safety this spring and with the lack of depth there he could make some noise. Gaining nearly 15 pounds since arriving on campus last summer, Ford was a standout defensive back in high school and is just the type of player who could make an easy transition to safety.
It's hard to say that a team's leading returning tackler has a chance to make a big move, but that's exactly the case with McKinzy. Even with his 75 tackles last season, McKinzy was on the field only part of the time because of Auburn's need to play five defensive backs against teams that tried to spread the field. Expected to work some in the middle at linebacker, if he takes to the position it would mean keeping him on the field every down. That could be a big plus for the Tigers considering his playmaking ability.
Cassanova McKinzy has been a major contributor his previous two seasons at Auburn.
With Carl Lawson establishing himself last season at end and returning starter LaDarius Owens possibly out for the entire spring with a foot injury suffered in the offseason workouts, Harrell is the guy who has the most to gain this spring at defensive end. Showing flashes of explosiveness during his time on the Plains, he has been bothered by injuries that have kept him from taking steps forward. If he can stay healthy this spring it won't be surprising to see Harrell in the rotation when the Tigers take the field next fall.
Much like Jones, Melton has a golden opportunity this spring to make a move at the cornerback position before help arrives next fall from a talented signing class. In the mix early last fall before going down with an injury in week three, Melton is primed to move up the depth chart for Coach Melvin Smith. Showing ball skills with a good mind for the game, Melton just makes plays.
A versatile player who made the move from high school safety to linebacker, Swain played well in his limited action last fall with 26 tackles and a fumble recovery. Now more secure in his role on the defense at linebacker, Swain's athleticism is apparent and if he lets that show on a consistent basis then he may be hard to keep off the field.