2009 Spring Football Preview: Defensive Line

Our second installment of spring practice previews features the defensive line.

Auburn, Ala.—Former Auburn defensive lineman Tracy Rocker returned to Auburn in January to coach the entire defensive line under new head coach Gene Chizik. Rocker, who came to Auburn from Ole Miss, will get his first real look at what he has to work with when spring practice begins on March 24. Though there may not be an lack of overall talent, depth is a concern and will be a priority this spring for Rocker and the front four.

Gone from a season ago are Tez Doolittle, who exhausted his eligibility, and Sen'Derrick Marks, who turned pro with a season remaining. However, several players who redshirted last season are expected to get into the playing rotation this spring both inside and at the outside end positions.

Redshirt freshman Cameron Henderson was a pass-rush specialist at Shades Valley High School in Birmingham. He should add depth at weakside end. Derrick Lykes from Chilton County High will be competing for playing time at defensive tackle while Jomarcus Savage from J.O. Johnson High could play inside at tackle or on the edge at strongside end.

Rocker wants to have a solid group of eight and two more for added depth, so the progress of Henderson, Lykes and Savage will be important this spring.

Under defensive coordinator Ted Roof, the Tigers are expected to be multiple and show both three and four-man fronts. Some players could be counted on to play both inside and out. Junior Zach Clayton is certainly a player that can do that, as he had 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season playing all four spots on the defensive line.

Zach Clayton could play a big role for Auburn's defense.

The only other tackles with college experience are junior Mike Blanc and senior Jake Ricks. Blanc had 27 tackles as a sophomore, including 3.5 for a loss. Ricks had seven tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Tigers' victory over Tennessee.

The situation at end is much more favorable than at tackle where Antonio Coleman returns for his senior year after leading the Tigers in tackles for loss and sacks each of the last two seasons. Antoine Carter, a talented reserve rush end, is back for his junior season and could be a key ingredient to the Tigers' front in 2009. He had 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in an injury-plagued sophomore campaign.

Antoine Carter sacks Tennessee last season.

Michael Goggans returns at strongside end for his junior season after an up and down sophomore year in which he had 27 tackles, four for a loss.

Two other players who are worth a mention are senior Gabe McKenzie and redshirt freshman Andre Wadley. McKenzie started his junior season as a tight end and played most of the year at defensive end before returning to offense for the final month of the season. He's expected to play offense in the spring, but could get a look on defense if needed.

Wadley was faced with serious medical issues associated with dehydration shortly after arriving at Auburn last summer. He was hospitalized last year and his status for spring of 2009 is uncertain as he has yet to be cleared for play by the medical staff.

Auburn signed six defensive linemen in the class of 2009, but none will be going through spring drills– Terrance Coleman, Josh Jackson, Nosa Eguae, Jamar Travis, Dee Ford and Nick Fairley.

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