The Tigers have to replace key players at every level of the defense, including Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae up front, Jake Holland at linebacker, and Chris Davis, Ryan White and Ryan Smith in the secondary. With plenty of opportunities for newcomers to make an impact this fall, we take a look at five of the 2014 signees who could step in right away for the Tigers.
An athletic big man, Davonte Lambert, has the ability to play very early in the 2014 season because of his maturity and physical skills. With his quick feet he could play end if needed and that may be the case for the Tigers. He also has the size (6-2, 290) to play inside and that could be a great luxury for Coach Rodney Garner in obvious passing situations.
Davonte Lambert comes to Auburn from Georgia Military College.
Already with a good feel for Auburn's defense after going through spring practice, there is little doubt that safety Derrick Moncrief will be on the field in some capacity when the Tigers take the field in the season opener against Arkansas. With Auburn looking to get bigger and more physical in the secondary, Moncrief should be just what Coach Charlie Harbison needs to make that happen.
Harbison isn't the only Auburn coach looking to get bigger and longer in the secondary. With college wide receivers getting larger and larger with every passing season, Melvin Smith is searching for his own version of Richard Sherman to force offenses to have to match up with the bigger players on the outside. That guy just may be Nick Ruffin.
At 6-1, 198, Ruffin already has the size to match up with bigger receivers in the SEC. With good speed and already on campus, getting a head start on learning the defense makes Ruffin a threat to break into the playing rotation early at cornerback.
Nick Ruffin is from St. Pius X in Atlanta.
While he has got work to do on the fundamentals and techniques needed to play in the SEC, there is no question that Andrew Williams has the physical tools to give Garner's group some help in 2014. Showing up in great shape and working hard to get on the field, the 6-4, 260 Williams has the ability to anchor the edge against the run and if he can show the explosion to get to the quarterback it would be a huge boost for the Tigers.
Tre Williams is one of the nation's top linebacker prospects in the 2014 class.
Rounding out the list is linebacker Tre Williams from St. Paul's in Mobile. At 6-2, 235, Williams has all the tools to push starters Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost for playing time. Athletic enough to play either linebacker position for Johnson, Williams is a natural leader who should be one of the building blocks for Auburn's defensive teams for years to come.