Even with injuries causing problems for Coach Ellis Johnson's defense, the Tigers still saw multiple players really take strides forward. We take a look at some of the biggest movers for Auburn's defense in spring practice and why their development will be important heading into the 2014 season.
Ben Bradley contributed last season for the Tigers.
Playing well in mostly a reserve role last season after coming to the Tigers out of junior college in January 2013, senior Ben Bradley is much like Marshall in that the spring allowed him to focus on technique and fundamental issues that are tough to deal with during the season.
Showing explosiveness and the ability to be an every-down player, Bradley's play and the return of Jeffrey Whitaker allowed the Tigers to experiment using Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams at defensive end during the spring.
Mostly a reserve last season, junior college transfer linebacker Kenny Flowers was almost an afterthought as the Tigers opened spring practice, but he made serious strides at the position in his first spring practice at Auburn.
Kenny Flowers will be a junior this season.
While Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost appear to be solidly locked in as starters heading into the summer, Flowers now looks to be more ready to provide depth on the second-team in year two as a Tiger.
Recruited as a running back by Auburn, speedy Johnathan Ford made some impressive plays out of the backfield last year for the Tigers, but a lack of depth in the secondary meant a move to defense in 2013.
Johnathan "Rudy" Ford has already shown his versatility as a football player.
Playing cornerback and mostly special teams, Ford got some experience on that side of the ball in his first season on the Plains in addition to limited duty as a running back. This spring he made a move to safety for Coach Charlie "Cheese" Harbison and was impressive in his ability to come up and be physical in the running game.
Athletically a good fit for the back end of the defense, Ford's development should prove to be a good move for the Tigers, who were short on depth at safety last year.
Another promising move for the secondary was the switch from wide receiver to cornerback for Trovon Reed. The fifth-year senior looked to be the odd-man-out on offense for the Tigers with so many talented players for wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig to work with this year.
With good explosion and flexible hips, Reed looks like a natural at the position based on what he showed in the spring. A solid third option at the moment, if he follows his spring performance with good work in preseason he should make a strong run at serious playing time for the Tigers.
Trovon Reed had a strong spring at cornerback
Rounding out the group is a player who has already made a big impact on the defense in his first three seasons with the team. Starting 20 games in his career at tackle for the Tigers, Gabe Wright came back this spring a changed man. Down 20 pounds from last season, Wright has put time and effort into being in better shape and that means he is a more explosive player on the field.
Working at defensive end this spring in addition to playing tackle, Wright pulled double-duty along with Montravius Adams in a move that could pay dividends early for the Tigers with both showing the ability to get to the quarterback off the edge. Facing a physical Arkansas team right out of the gate, having bigger options at defensive end should also help to slow down the run-oriented Razorbacks.