Since Nick Coe’s arrival on The Plains in 2016, Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s biggest question for the former four-star prospect wasn’t how he would produce on the field. It was simply getting him on the turf.
After redshirting in 2016, Coe, the defensive end backing up preseason All-SEC third teamer Marlon Davidson, played just 48 percent of snaps behind Auburn’s unforgiving front four. Coe racked up 4.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks on the season, and really hit his stride at the end of the year going into spring ball. The Asheboro, North Carolina, native was named SEC defensive lineman of the week for his one-sack, five-tackle performance in the Iron Bowl, earned a spot on the All-SEC freshman team and took home defensive MVP honors after stifling Auburn’s offense in the A-Day spring game.
That’s a guy who needs to see the field.
And through five days of fall camp, Steele may have the solution. When asked about the depth that incumbent Buck linebackers T.D. Moultry and Big Kat Bryant provide, Steele was quick to note that Coe is also in the mix at the coveted outside linebacker position.
“That’s also Nick Coe’s position,” Steele said Tuesday evening. “We’ve got three guys. Nick (Coe) is having a really good camp. T.D. (Moultry) is a young guy that has a skill set, rushes the passer well. And Big Kat is really coming along.”
Steele called the new defensive line rotation a “work in progress” because the team has only had one day of third-down practices — the down that previous pass-rushing specialists wreaked havoc on. The coordinator noted that the lineup should begin to sort itself out when the unit sees more third downs at the first scrimmage Thursday.
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“It may be another spot,” Steele said of producing another double-digit sack player at Buck. “If it happens to be that spot, we’ll generate it and scheme it up. It’s too early to tell … obviously, the skill sets allow Nick (Coe) to be inside and outside. It allows Marlon (Davidson) to be inside and outside.”
Through Steele’s first two years at Auburn, his starting Buck linebackers each turned in 10 sacks in their respective seasons — good for second in the SEC last year for Jeff Holland and fourth for Carl Lawson in 2016.
Physically, Coe is a different breed. At 6-foot-5 and 282 pounds, he dwarfs the likes of Holland and Lawson. His frame allowed him to play both tackle and end his redshirt freshman year.
The Tigers’ scrimmage on Thursday is closed to the media, but Gus Malzahn and select players will be available for interviews at 11:45 a.m. CST.
Other defensive notes from Steele’s press conference and the team’s first day in full pads:
- Redshirt freshman linebacker Tanner Dean was free-rushing Stidham in an outside linebacker role in a first-team offense versus defense drill Tuesday. If Coe ends up manning the Buck up front, Moultry and Bryant could still find themselves in packages like that to capitalize on their pass-rushing ability.
- Steele said that defensive back Jayvaughn Myers has “really picked things up” at the star/nickel position in the middle of the field. Myers was the big surprise of the first practice as he was working with first-teamers at that slot instead of junior Javaris Davis. Steele was quick to note that the lineups in drills may be misleading as first- and third-teamers sometimes go against the second and fourth teams.
- True freshman Richard Jibunor “knows there’s just one football out there” and enjoys practicing, according to Steele. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Jibunor is one of four players listed at Buck on the official roster.
- Defense is “proceeding into the season just like they were in the spring” with Noah Igbinoghene’s undisclosed injury. The receiver-turned-corner had been working as a starter in recent practices before showing up Tuesday in a non-contact jersey and no pads. Steele said injury news is a question for the head coach.
- Steele is still tweaking the secondary lineup. Says nothing is set in stone at corner or nickel. Myers, Davis and Jordyn Peters are the nickels.
- When safeties Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas are on the field with the three senior linebackers, the rest of the group falls in line and “knows what to do when they’re out there with those guys.”
- Steele wants to be asked again in December about where this defense ranks out of all the units he’s coached.
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