With SEC Media Days underway, sports reporter Zach Tantillo will dive into the Auburn players in various position groups that have the greatest chance for a breakout season in 2019 with the new “Bound to Break Out” series.
Today’s edition of Bound to Break Out focuses on the players who can emerge from the defensive line, the most talented position group Auburn has to offer and a unit that is littered with next-level talent.
HOOVER, Ala. - Auburn’s defensive line is the one position group that there are little to no concerns with the amount of talent the Tigers are bringing back.
The most notable returnees are the “Big 3” of defensive linemen Marlon Davidson, Derrick Brown and Nick Coe. All three boasted NFL draft buzz after being a part of one of the more dominant defensive line units in the country the last couple of seasons.
Their decision to all return was a surprising one for many Auburn faithful and NFL scouts and a decision they all made together to come back and make a future for Auburn.
“Our class can change Auburn, future and now,” Davidson said. “We are going to take care of business. This year, we are going to put it up. We are going to do it well for Auburn, we are going to be real Auburn men.”
With the trio of Coe, Brown and Davidson returning, Auburn brings a force on the defensive line that has an impact in almost every category for the Tigers. The three ranked No. 1 (Coe), No. 2 (Brown) and No. 5 (Davidson) on the team’s sack list last season while accounting for nearly a third of Auburn’s tackles for loss production.
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But with this much talent returning, the question remains of who can have a breakout season in 2019?
Soon to be a fourth-year starter on the defensive line in the SEC, Marlon Davidson would not strike someone as a player who is bound to have a breakout season, but as a player who has already mastered the skills necessary to succeed in the league.
But that is far from true.
It is true that Davidson is about to start his fourth consecutive year on the defensive line for Auburn. It is also true that Davidson has yet to have that dominant season that someone with his talent level should have had by now, but that all ends in 2019.
Year after year, Davidson has steadily improved a different facet of his game. He successfully has become one of the best run stoppers on Auburn’s elite defensive line, but that has not been good enough for Davidson.
For the past few seasons, Davidson has perfected his run-stopping ability while steadily improving as a pass rusher with him reaching his peak last season where he led the team with 11 quarterback hurries.
Leading the team with 11 quarterback hurries is something most defensive linemen would be proud of, but Davidson has seen in it as something to improve on to make it the final piece to his NFL resume.
“I gotta finish on the quarterback this year,” Davidson said. “I mean, I got there. I took all my work last year to get there, I got there, but now I gotta finish. I can’t miss him in my arms anymore.”
Expect Davidson to keep the pattern going and improve heavily with his pass rushing ability and have that dominant season everyone has been expecting.
Big Kat Bryant:
Big Kat Bryant has been one of the more efficient players along the defensive line for Auburn.
Despite being a reserve player his freshman year and a rotational piece his sophomore season, Bryant has picked up 23 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three pass deflections, a forced fumble and a 20-yard pick six in only 15 games played.
Now going into 2019, it is uncertain if Bryant will be thrust into the starting role at the Buck with last year’s sack leader Nick Coe returning.
The open slot at defensive tackle could pose a window for Bryant to get that uptick in playing time he’s so desperately worked for with Coe having the possibility sliding into the role, maybe not full time, but this could open the door for Bryant at the Buck or even the defensive end position.
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