Sophomore Jeff Holland (above) is a player to keep an eye on in Saturday's game.
Finding The Pass Rush
There is no question this Auburn defensive line group has more depth than any for the Tigers in recent seasons, but there is a burning question that still remains for Rodney Garner’s troops heading into 2016 and that is where does the pass rush come from?
If junior defensive end Carl Lawson can stay healthy that would go a long way towards answering a good part of that question, but the more the merrier when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Right now there are some suspects and Saturday would be a perfect time to see one or more of those guys take a step forward.
The most likely guy to do that is sophomore Jeff Holland. Playing a position very similar to that of Lawson and what Cassanova McKinzy did last season after making a move from inside linebacker, Holland has the skills to make an impact off the edge for the Tigers. Two more guys to watch will be Marlon Davidson and Byron Cowart. If either of those could show consistent push off the edge it would be a huge boost for the defense because their size would allow them to be an every-down player on the side opposite Lawson and give Auburn’s defense much more versatility this fall.
“Back” In The Saddle Again
There’s no question that linebacker DeShaun Davis has probably been the biggest surprise of the spring for Auburn, at least on the defensive side of the ball. Rarely getting reps with the defense a year ago and playing only a handful of plays for the Tigers, Davis was probably as happy as anyone to see a change in management on the defensive side of the ball.
That new life has meant an opportunity for the redshirt sophomore and so far he’s making the most of it. While junior Tre Williams is a guy the Tigers will count on at linebacker, Davis is battling Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson to be the next guy. With transfer T.J. Neal coming in this summer after graduating at Illinois, Saturday could be another important day for Davis to show just what he can bring to the table for the defense.
Linebacker DeShaun Davis has had a strong spring for the Tigers.
Cornering The Market
Maybe the guy who has done the most to secure his job this spring is sophomore cornerback Carlton Davis. One of the top freshmen in the SEC last year, Davis has gotten bigger and stronger since the 2015 season and it has made his game even better under the guidance of first-year Coach Wesley McGriff.
Now the question remains, who will be the starter on the other side for the Tigers? Redshirt freshmen Jamel Dean and Javaris Davis are the top candidates at the moment and both will have a chance to show what they can do on a bigger stage Saturday. A large, physical cornerback, Dean looks more like a big safety than a cornerback, but may have the skills to get the job done. at the SEC level.
A talented athlete who has elite speed, Javaris Davis can run with even the fastest of receivers and isn’t afraid to get physical in the running game. He has had a year to learn about life in the SEC, which should serve him well.
This is a battle worth watching closely on Saturday even though both will likely be a big part of Auburn’s defense in the fall.