Elijah Daniel (97) is shown in action in Auburn's 2013 victory at Tennessee along with Nosa Eguae, who was a senior last fall.
Auburn, Ala.--For a second year in a row Auburn’s defensive line coach, Rodney Garner, will be missing a key pass rusher when the Tigers open the football season.
In 2013 end Dee Ford, a senior, was injured for game one vs. Washington State. When the Tigers take on Arkansas on August 30th they will do it without Carl Lawson, who became a key contributor last fall as a freshman with 28 tackles and two sacks.
The Tigers were going to need help from newcomers even if Lawson was back this year because they have to replace Ford and fellow 2013 seniors Craig Sanders and Nosa Eguae, but that project is more important with Carter and Keymiya Harrell both sidelined after having ACL surgeries that could keep them out of much or all of the 2014 season.
That means the defense will need a big year from 6-2, 259 LaDarius Owens, who contributed 23 solo tackles with 11 assists, 6 1/2 tackles for loss, six sacks and eight QB hurries while starting a dozen games as a junior. The former linebacker has the quickness to be a major threat as an outside rusher.
LaDarius Owens is shown in action as a junior.
Sophomore Elijah Daniel has a great opportunity to play a larger role this year after seeing much of his playing as a pass rush specialist who often lined up inside at tackle. This fall look for the 6-2, 264 Daniel to spend almost of his time at end. As a true freshman he was second on the team in quarterback hurries with 11, six behind Ford, who is now working in an NFL training camp.
It won’t be a major surprise if the Tigers picked up a starter from the signee class. Davonte Lambert, a transfer from Georgia Military Academy, is a four-star recruit who is known for his athletic ability. To improve his quickness he has dropped 20 pounds since arriving at Auburn and enters the preseason at 6-2, 273 pounds.
The other defensive end newcomers include 6-7, 230 Raashed Kennion from First Coast High in Jacksonville, Fla., 6-5, 230 Justin Thornton from Vigor High in Prichard and 6-4, 251 Andrew Williams from Eagles Landing Christian in McDonough, Ga. The Tigers also signed Lambert’s teammate, 6-2, 284 Devaroe Lawrence, a player who could line up at end or tackle. Lawrence, who redshirted one season at Georgia Military College, will be a sophomore this fall.
Despite the slow start last season that included sitting out the first two contests, Ford earned All-SEC honors last season. By the middle part of the season he was an effective pass rusher and late in the season he was one of the top defenders in the league as he added quickness so he will be missed.
Gimel President runs through a drill in spring training.
The Tigers are short on experienced ends in season two with Ellis Johnson as the defensive coordinator. One player who could help with the depth is 6-4, 265 redshirt sophomore Gimel President, who won praise from Garner for improved play in spring drills.
Last season the Tigers substituted early and often to keep fresh ends in the game. This season that could be more difficult to do if several newcomers aren’t ready for prime-time duty or if there are more injuries at the position, something the 2014 Tigers really need to avoid if the defense is going to reach its potential.