Auburn defensive end Nick Coe isn’t one to wildly celebrate after a sack.
He’d have plenty of reason to, if he wanted. Coe leads Auburn in sacks with 7.5 and boasts a team-high in tackles for loss as well with 13.5 — the most by a Tiger since Dee Ford in 2013 (14.5).
But Coe elects to play things cool. According to senior defensive tackle Dontavius Russell, Coe has only celebrated after a big play once this season.
“He beat his chest, I think,” Russell said. “I guess that's all he's got for you.”
Auburn’s defensive line is following Coe’s lead: quietly thrashing opposing offensive lines. After being labeled one of the top units in the nation in the preseason, the Tigers’ front seven production has been overlooked as Auburn (6-3, 3-3 SEC) overall has fallen short of expectations. The Tigers rank third nationally in tackles for loss and eighth in sacks.
But it’s difficult to pinpoint the line’s top contributor in Auburn’s 28-24 comeback win over Texas A&M last Saturday.
The SEC says it’s Coe, as the sophomore picked up his third Defensive Lineman of the Week accolades (Washington, Ole Miss) Monday. Coe recorded a sack and two tackles for loss, including the game-sealing strip-sack of Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond as time expired.
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That makes two straight dominating performances for Coe. Against Ole Miss, Coe’s 3.5 sacks of Jordan Ta’amu made for the best performance by an Auburn defensive lineman in 12 years.
Against the Aggies and Rebels, all of Coe’s tackles came on either third or fourth down.
“Nick is really coming on and getting more confidence,” said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. “He’s just playing at a high level against the run and the pass.”
Others crowned interior force Derrick Brown as the most dominant Tiger on defense against the Aggies. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown was the highest rated defender in the conference over the weekend, beating out the likes of Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who seemed to be eating blockers whole against LSU.
It also could have been Russell, who came inches away from recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter.
“Man, I had a cast on my hand,” Russell said. “I couldn't wrap the ball up. But I'm glad we won the game. I thought some people would be mad at me if we would've lost that one that, but we ended up getting it, so it's all good.”
Other crucial contributors include junior defensive end Marlon Davidson, who blocked a field goal in three straight games earlier this season, and starting Buck linebacker Big Kat Bryant, who led the team in sacks through the first three weeks of the year.
Georgia is one of the nation’s best at staving off players like that, however.
In Athens on Saturday, Coe, Russell, Brown and company will have to push through a Bulldogs offensive line that allows the 10th fewest tackles for loss in the nation.
“You can't really go into the game thinking they haven't allowed something, so you can't do it,” Russell said of Georgia’s offense. “You've got to approach it like it's just another game that you've got to go play and focus on what you can do throughout the week to get yourself the best to play against the opponent.”
If Auburn’s D-line dominance can continue against that front, that may be grounds for serious celebration. Even for Coe.
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