The departures of Noah Igbinoghene, Javaris Davis, Daniel Thomas and Jeremiah Dinson to the NFL will have Auburn looking to some new faces to fill prominent roles in the secondary.
While they might be new starters, a lot of them come in with plenty of previous experience.
Replacing Thomas and Dinson will most likely be Smoke Monday and Jamien Sherwood, who are entering their junior seasons with two years of experience each as a backup.
Monday has 34 tackles and two interceptions to his name, while Sherwood has 65 tackles and an interception.
Along with leaders like K.J. Britt at linebacker, Kevin Steele will be looking for players like Monday and Sherwood to be veteran leaders on a young defense, a task Monday is ready to approach.
“We were put in the fire real fast,” Monday told reporters Thursday. “So I feel like it developed us to be the leaders we are today, and we can lead the defense in a really good way this year.”
While Monday may be the more vocal leader for the secondary, he says Sherwood has shown his ability to lead through his play on the field.
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One of the guys they’ll have to lead is former wide receiver turned defensive back Matthew Hill.
Monday says Hill has gotten reps at both safety and cornerback since switching to the defensive side of the ball.
“I feel like Matthew Hill is gonna be a big contributor to the defense because he’s very athletic,” Monday said. “He can run, he has nice hips. I feel he’s learned the playbook very well and I feel like he can help us in a big way this year.”
While at cornerback, Auburn will be without Igbinoghene and Davis, but with junior Roger McCreary likely to be Auburn's top cornerback, the team isn’t concerned.
“One thing I can say about Roger is, I know that he gonna have my back,” Monday said. “I know that he gonna do his job every single play. He’s gonna play 110% every single play. I feel like his technique is one of the best in the country, and I feel like when he’s on that island alone, I’m not worried about him. Roger gonna do his job. Roger’s gonna lock that receiver down.”
Opposite McCreary, Monday says Nehemiah Pritchett and Marco Domio have been impressive early in fall camp, along with safety Jaylin Simpson who has gotten looks at cornerback.
Even with all the losses on Auburn’s defense, Monday still believes they could be one of the best, if not the best, in the country.
“I feel like we have all the pieces to be a great defense this year,” Monday said. “We just got to communicate, stay focused on keeping everyone level-headed. We know that we only have four starters coming back, but the other guys have played … If we play with effort every single play and we tackle, we gonna have the best defense in the country, I feel.”
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