Editor's note: This is the second in a series of previews for the 2015 Auburn Tigers.
Auburn loses a ton of experience off the 2014 defense at the tackle position, but it could be addition by subtraction this season as the Tigers get more athletic with the addition of redshirt freshman Dontavius Russell. With little-used junior Devaroe Lawrence a possible breakout performer in 2015 and the addition of junior college run stopper Maurice Swain, Coach Rodney Garner has an interesting mix of talent to utilize this season.
The most experienced player in the group is returning sophomore and potential superstar Montravius Adams. An explosive player who has shown glimpses of his talent the last two years, Adams is due to have a monster season now that he is the veteran of the group for the Tigers. Forced to become a better technical player over the course of the last two years after dominating in high school because of his size and athleticism, it will be a surprise if Adams isn’t a whole lot better in 2015.
One of the reasons Adams should be better is because of the emergence of Russell beside him on the line of scrimmage. A player who pushed for playing time last year as a true freshman before taking a redshirt year, Russell was Auburn’s most consistent and dominant tackle in the spring. That combination should make him a player to watch this year for the Tigers and take some of the pressure off Adams.
Dontavius Russell signed with the Tigers out of Georgia power Carrollton High School.
Coming from junior college in time for spring practice, Swain showed some athleticism and with his strength he should be a welcome addition in the middle of the defense.
However, the player to watch this season could be Lawrence. Playing sparingly last season as a redshirt sophomore after coming in from Georgia Military College, Lawrence is still very inexperienced and is just now coming into his own as a player. Compared by Garner to former Georgia and current NFL standout Geno Atkins, Lawrence is the type of player who could have a major impact on Auburn’s defense if things come together.
Rounding out the true defensive tackles for the Tigers is Johnson. Coming off a knee injury that required surgery, the Lincoln native should be close to full speed when preseason camp opens Aug. 4, but is likely headed for a redshirt season.
Devaroe Lawrence is a lineman with good quickness.
While there is seemingly not much depth at the position the Tigers will be helped by Will Muschamp’s versatility on defense that will allow Auburn to give both a 4-3 and 3-4 look in the front seven. With a three-man front something that will be likely used a great deal this season it will open the door for players such as Davonte Lambert, Andrew Williams and Byron Cowart to make an impact as well.
An end, but weighing around 285, Lambert is coming back from knee surgery, but should be full speed around the start of the season. Up to 270 pounds, Williams is a much better fit in the 3-4 as an end, something that should be his ticket under Muschamp. The wildcard of the group is Cowart. Already 280 pounds, Cowart has the speed to play outside at defensive end but as a 3-4 end he could be a force opposite Carl Lawson or even lined up beside him.
While Auburn has to replace experienced players from last year’s team there is no reason why the 2015 group shouldn’t be better. With athletes who have plenty of potential, the Tigers should be improved this season with Muschamp’s scheme a better fit for the talent up front. Adams and Russell both have all-star ability and if they play that way this season it would push the Tigers to another level defensively. Add in a healthy Lambert, the athletic Lawrence and dynamic freshman Cowart and the group has a chance to be one of the most improved on the team.
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