AU Spring Football Preview: Defensive Line

A preview of Auburn's defensive ends and defensive tackles is featured as the Tigers open spring football drills.

Auburn, Ala.--Replacing two-time All-SEC selection Antonio Coleman on the outside and one-year starter Jake Ricks on the inside will be the focus for the Auburn defensive front during spring drills.

Coleman, who finished third in Auburn history in career sacks with 24 1/2 has been a fixture in the lineup at end. However, despite the loss of the 2009 senior the Tigers return a pair of players at that position with extensive starting experience in Antoine Carter and Michael Goggans.

Goggans, a 6-3, 261 senior, has 18 career starts. He made 24 of his 59 career tackles last season. His strength is stopping the run.

Mike Goggans is one of Auburn's most experienced defenders.

Carter, a 6-4, 260 pounder who bounced back from a knee injury to start Auburn's final seven games last season, has eight career starts. Carter was credited with 30 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. For his career he has 5 1/2 sacks and 62 tackles. His strength is his quickness as a pass rusher.

A pair of 2009 signees are expected to figure significantly into the playing time equation for position coach Tracy Rocker. One of those players, Dee Ford, saw action last fall while Nosa Eguae redshirted after he was injured just prior to the season opener.

Ford, who is 6-4, 233, is trying to add size and strength for his second year of college football. Eguae, a 6-2, 249-pounder, won praise from his coaches last season prior to his injury.

More help arrived in January when early high school graduate Craig Sanders enrolled at Auburn in time for winter workouts and spring drills. Sanders, who is from Ariton, is considered one of the top defensive end prospects in the 2010 signee class. He currently checks in at 6-4, 240 pounds.

Zach Clayton has played both end and tackle for the Tigers.

Zach Clayton, a 6-3, 293-pounder, will be trying to bounce back from a frustrating junior year that was ruined by an ankle injury that limited him to spot duty in six games. A player with the potential to be a factor at end or tackle, getting back to 100 percent health-wise and staying there will be the keys to his success this year.

Mike Blanc, a 6-4, 289 senior, started 11 times last season and made 44 tackles with 3 1/2 sacks. Nick Fairley, a 6-4, 315 juco transfer, started the other two games and finished the year with a strong performance in Auburn's bowl victory over Northwestern.

Mike Blanc will be counted on to anchor the defensive front.

Fairley, who has added approximately 20 pounds of muscle since arriving at Auburn last summer, made 28 tackles with 1 1/2 sacks last season. He starts spring drills at 6-5, 314.

A pair of sophomores, 6-2, 281 Derrick Lykes and 6-0, 292 Jamar Travis, are two more interior defensive linemen for Rocker to worth with this spring. Lykes played in all 13 games as a redshirt freshman and made nine tackles. Travis, who played in 10 games as a true freshman, did not record a tackle.

In addition to Coleman and Ricks, the other senior the Tigers lost was Gabe McKenzie, who saw limited action after making the move from offense to defense.

Chris Humphries, a 6-2, 225 walk-on defensive end from Somerville, has a knack for making plays despite being undersized.

With the depth situation not being what Rocker would like, the possibility is there for the signees to contribute right away this fall. In addition to early arrival Sanders, tackles Kenneth Carter from Greenville High and Jeffrey Whitaker from Warner Robins, Ga., High, are expected to be given serious looks in August. The same is true of juco transfer Joel Bonomolo, a Louisiana native who is finishing classes this spring at Fullerton Junior College in California.

Another possibility on the defensive front is Handley High standout Ladarious Phillips. A whopper running back at 6-1, 280 pounds, the 2010 signee also played on defense and could gravitate to that side of the ball in college if he doesn't work out as a back for the Tigers.

The Tigers, who will begin Gene Chizik's second spring as head coach at Auburn with a workout on Wednesday, will play the annual A-Day Spring Game on Saturday, April 17th beginning at 1 p.m. CDT.

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