While on paper, Auburn had to replace four starters in the secondary with Jeremiah Dinson, Daniel Thomas, Noah Igbinoghene and Javaris Davis all going to the NFL, this isn't of much concern for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
During his time at Auburn, Steele has always stressed the importance of depth.
"In terms of replacing starters, we've always addressed that issue, and you've heard us say this before; in this league, we've never approached it where we've got 11 starters," Steele said Thursday. "We've always tried to get in the neighborhood of 18 starters that we could play in any game at any point in time."
The Tigers starting cornerback will be Roger McCreary, a guy who Steele viewed as a starter last year after playing a significant role in the secondary behind Igbinoghene and Davis.
"Some people would say that Roger McCreary wasn't a starter," Steele said. "But if you go back and look at his snaps in games and you look at his production and look at the times which he played, he's a starter. He was a starter last year."
Behind McCreary is Smoke Monday and Jamien Sherwood, guys who have played since entering as freshmen in 2018 in Auburn's game against Washington.
"As I started my second season last fall, it just all clicked for me last fall camp," Sherwood said on Wednesday. "I feel like I really got to express myself on the field because I knew all the calls. This year I feel like I know everything that's going on."
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Since arriving at Auburn, Sherwood has been described as a quiet guy, but Steele says this season, Sherwood has become more vocal as a leader.
Earlier in fall camp, Monday described him as a "lead by example" guy for the younger guys.
The nickel position will continue to be led by Christian Tutt, who's also been playing since arriving on campus in 2018. Previously behind Tutt was Jordyn Peters, but Steele has made some adjustments to the secondary before the 2020 season.
Rotating at safety behind Monday and Sherwood will be Peters and freshman Chris Thompson, who's impressed since arriving at Auburn.
"He [Thompson] is a freshman, but he is doing really well," Sherwood said. "He is big, he is fast, he is physical. He is smart, as well."
Replacing the void left by Peters at nickel will be Ladarius Tennison and Zion Puckett, according to Steele.
Lastly, behind McCreary is a "fun" battle for the second starting spot at cornerback.
Steele says Nehemiah Pritchett, Marco Domio, Matthew Hill, Devan Barrett and Jaylin Simpson are all competing for the starting nod.
As to who has the edge right now?
"If you asked me today, I couldn't tell you who would be the starter of that group," Steele said. "That's how competitive it is."
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