Photo by Jason Caldwell

Auburn Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele Talks About a Pair of Auburn Freshman Defensive Lineman and Preseason Practice

Kevin Steele has his eyes on a pair of promising freshmen who are competing for playing time on the defensive front.

Auburn, Ala.--Early arrival Marlon Davidson won praise for his performance in spring training. On Friday night, following Auburn’s third preseason football practice, another freshman defensive lineman was mentioned as a newcomer with plenty of potential.

Asked if five-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown is going to be ready to break into the playing rotation this season, Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele said, “It is too early for that. There are some pretty good players in front of him, but he certainly has the characteristics physically, mentally and emotionally that if he keeps progressing it would not be surprising at all.”

Brown is a 6-5, 330-pounder who was a prime recruiting target for the Tigers as was Davidson, who enrolled at Auburn in January and finished spring drills at the top of the depth chart as a defensive end.

“I will say this, we have got a long way to go and he is young, but Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, to have two guys like that in the same class is rare," Steele said. "That's just a fact.

“I could tell you otherwise or try to sugarcoat it or try to mask it like, ‘They are not this, we have got a long way,’ but the truth is those guys are pretty talented.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Derrick Brown (5) is shown with senior walk-on linebacker Greg Hall (41), who is 6-3, 250 pounds.

“The big thing about them, they are both very emotionally mature and that is the biggest separating factor with freshmen.

There are guys that are really physical specimens, there are guys that pick it up quick, but just the wear and tear of the daily grind gets to them emotionally. It doesn’t faze those guys.”

Davidson is a 6-3, 273-pounder from Greenville High. Brown played at Lanier High in Buford, Ga.

The Tigers worked out in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads on Friday evening. Steele said the defense is a work in progress.

“Obviously, I?think the guys came back in good shape with a good attitude,” the coordinator said. “They have got a lot of want to. We are trying to make things hard for them, really hard on them, and make sure through the course of the process that they develop mental toughness and physical toughness, all in getting an extreme knowledge of the game.

“There is a lot on them right now in that regard,” the veteran coach pointed out. “We have made progress in certain areas then in other areas we have got to keep improving and then the next day it will slip back the other direction. Where we focus we seem to get improvement. Where you let something slide we have to re-adjust it.

“All in all, we got a good start, but we have got a long way to go--a long way to go,”?Steele added. 

In other news and notes:

*Graduate transfer defensive back Marshall Taylor missed practice for a third straight day. Previously, Coach Gus Malzahn said the former Miami of Ohio player is taking care of personal business.

*Junior linebacker Tre Williams said the fact that Auburn opens the season vs. No. 2 Clemson is not front and center with him or the Tigers. “Right now we’re just focused on Auburn because if we’re not right than it doesn’t matter who we play,” he said. “Right now it’s just a focus on our game.”

*Sophomore running back Kerryon Johnson returned kickoffs last season and is hoping to get that assignment again. “Definitely. That’s just an easy way to get the ball. It’s just get back there and run, and it’s very fun for me. I enjoyed doing it last year and I’m going to enjoy doing it this year.”

*Redshirt freshmen Jamel Dean and Javaris Davis plus fifth-year senior Josh Holsey are working at the cornerback spot along with returning starter Carlton Davis. Steele said, “We have got a good rotation going there. We have got a good little rotation there in terms of moving Dean and JD (Javaris Davis) and then Holsey in that picture. With that we have got Carlton so we have kind of moved them around. There have been different guys out there at different times with the first group, playing right and left, and we have got some field and boundary stuff.”

*The Tigers will return to practice Saturday and Sunday before having their first day off on Monday.

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