January 20, 2014


AUBURN | Auburn is expected to resume its place among the nation's top championship contenders in 2014.

Fresh off winning the SEC Championship and falling 20 seconds short of winning the BCS National Championship, the Tigers return many players behind the program's magical run during Gus Malzahn's first season.

Still, there are holes to fill.

This is a three-part look at key areas that Auburn will focus on during the offseason in order to repeat their success of 2013. Today, we'll examine how assistant coach Rodney Garner can replace the veteran presence along the defensive front.

Strong play off the edge was a major part of the Tigers' defensive renaissance under Ellis Johnson. Dee Ford, who signed as an undersized linebacker from St. Clair County, finished his college career as a 240-pound dominator who anchored the pass rush and provided meaningful support against the run.
He was joined by his best friend, Nosa Eguae, whose strength and savvy allowed him to hold the edge along the other side. He moonlighted as a tackle during the season's second half, further demonstrating his utility.
Fellow senior Craig Sanders was a max-effort player whose power and tenacity also helped Auburn maintain outside leverage against teams plotting tailback leads and end-arounds.

Those three seniors are gone. So who remains? Let's take a look.

  • Carl Lawson, Sophomore -- He is the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with the Tigers and justified the hype in 2013. He played in all 14 games and finished with 20 tackles, though 7.5 of them were for a loss. He added four sacks. Lawson's odd dance after sacking Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace in October was a high point or low point, depending on whom you ask.
        Lawson's first varsity season was a major success by any measure. He arrived with remarkable agility for his size and became a menace once he learned to play his assignment rather than focusing solely on beating blockers. Assistant coach Rodney Garner allocated more playing time, important playing time, to Lawson during the season's second half. That's a very good sign for the rising sophomore's development.

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