Here’s where it really starts to get interesting. What you saw Saturday was only a shell of the talent the Cougs possess on the D-line, and they had a pretty good day. The standout is beefed up rs sophomore Xavier Cooper. RS sophomore Darryl Paulo plays with great leverage and quickness at nose tackle, but does not have the size or strength of senior Ioane Gauta or rs junior Toni Pole, who were injured most of the Spring. Their return, along with rs sophomore Logan Mayes and rs freshmen Robert Barber and Destiny Vaeao makes the line a whole lot more menacing. The Cougs have five more incoming freshman but the guy I’m most excited to make a difference is Paulo Lepua, who is explosive and really could make a difference once he figures things out a little bit. Also, rs junior Matthew Bock had an incredible Spring and junior transfer Lyman Faoliu will figure in heavily. The D-line is going to be deep and fun to watch this upcoming season.
Junior transfer Ivan McLennan is already making his presence felt in practice, but he struggled in the Spring game when I saw him out there. On the other hand the LB’s were all over the ball so maybe I just didn’t recognize him as much as a couple others. Still, an addition of some blitz packages would likely help him, so we’ll see how he reacts in those situations with his speed. Other than that, senior Justin Sagote and sophomore Darryl Monroe look to have their respective spots locked up, and while rs sophomore Tana Pritchard has been with the 1’s at times and battling Sagote and McLennan hard, I believe that he’ll be in the second row come Fall. With the developing depth at LB, including juniors Cyrus Coen, Chester Su’a and Eric Oertel, rs senior Jared Byers and sophomore Jeremiah Allison, it’s pretty much a lock that newcomer Peyton Pelluer will get the opportunity to redshirt. It’s also a lock that this could become the best battle of the Fall.
The corner position is about a intriguing as the defensive line, but for the opposite reasons. This is the most suspect group after the O-line and they have had trouble with consistency. There’s something about rs senior Anthony Carpenter that really just pops on gameday and he’s ready to go. Not being the greatest practice player could hurt him a little bit in the fall, but he’s got the talent, experience and play-making ability to continue his starting role from the end of last season. It’s a matter of who will be across from him that’s trying to get resolved. A resurgence from senior Damante Horton (which I predicted from him well before Spring ball began) has left him running with the 1’s but it’s still going to be an uphill climb. Signee Daquawn Brown and rs freshman Alex Jackson figure to add their names to the mix of senior Nolan Washington, rs freshman Rahmel Dockery and rs junior Tracy Clark in the Fall. One bad game from anybody and they could lose their position for the year.
Senior Deone Bucannon and sophomore Taylor Taliulu are my favorites to start at Auburn, but rs senior Casey Locker will have a say as well, probably stepping in to help in the box as an 8th ‘run’ defender on short down situations. The injured freshman Feddie Davey will jump in with senior Bennett Bontemps (moving over from receiver), rs freshman David Bucannon and upstart walk-on junior Mitchell Peterson to compete as well. But maybe the most exciting potential for a couple years down the road will also come in the Fall, as Darius Lemora and eventually Isaac Dotson (due to a chance at quarterback initially) join the crew with terrific athleticism in the last line of defense.