The storyline that has continued to build steam over the offseason has been the potential dominance of Auburn’s defensive front.
The most experienced member of the line, Dontavius Russell, is going into his fourth season as a starter and has seen dominant fronts in his time at Auburn, including one of the best units in the country last year with a front four consisting of Jeff Holland, Russell, Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson.
Even with the loss of team sack leader Holland, Auburn is bringing back three starters from last year’s unit and some key depth pieces along the line. With all of that and an offseason to mesh even more, Russell believes that the experienced unit can be just as good, if not better than last year’s group.
“We’ve been progressing," Russell said. "We only lost Jeff, but you got to think [T.D. Moultry] played really well last year. Big Cat also moved to Buck, so we have depth at that position… we returned the three main defensive tackles that played, [Tyrone Truesdell] is coming back, we got a new freshman coming in, Coynis [Miller], he’s been progressing. Nick Coe and Marlon [Davidson] always play really well and I think if we keep progressing then we can be better than last year."
The shear amount of talent along the defensive line does not only affect the defense or the unit solely — going up against a group with multiple future NFL players makes everyone around them better, from the linebackers to secondary, and even helping new starters on the offensive line get better assimilated to elite front fours.
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New offensive lineman Jack Driscoll was one of the more highly touted grad transfers in the nation when he transferred to Auburn. Though starting at UMass against occasional tough competition (five starts against SEC teams), Driscoll never has had to play against top quality defensive units week in and week out.
Driscoll is relishing how much going against Auburn’s stout defensive front this fall has improved his game.
“It’s one of those things, it’s obviously a challenge but it gets you a lot better and I can already tell I have become a better player and I hope I’m making them better players as well,” Driscoll said. “It’s fun, as a competitor that’s the kind of stuff you like is getting to play the best every day.
“When you’re going against a front seven like we have, there are not going to be many more fronts better than them in the country. So, getting to work with them day in and day out is something that has made me more confident going to the week-to-week grind.”
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