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StatTiger

Early Notes on Auburn's Run Defense

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Run-Defense 2016:

It has been quite some time since Auburn fielded a solid defense across the board. Coach Kevin Steele is Auburn's fifth defensive coordinator since 2009, replacing Will Muschamp, who managed to shift the defense in the right direction. Over the past seven seasons, Auburn's average national ranking in the eleven primary statistical categories is No. 66. Of the combined 77 statistical categories from 2009-2015, Auburn had only seven top-25 finishes. This meager showing includes an average national ranking of No. 70 in run defense; an area Auburn must improve if they are to field a quality defense in 2016. Of the five defensive coordinators Auburn has hired since 2008, Kevin Steele almost certainly has the best overall talent to work compared to the previous coordinators.

Inside the Numbers:

  • During Auburn's last 65 games from 2011-2015, the Tigers have allowed 180.0 yards rushing per game for 4.63 yards per attempt. Auburn has held their opponent to only 1 percent below the opponent's rushing average.

  • During the past five seasons Auburn has allowed the opponent to rush for over 200-yards on 26 occasions out of 65 games. In comparison, Auburn under Tommy Tuberville surrendered 200-yards rushing 11 times out of 125 games.

  • From 2011-2015 Auburn is 21-2 during games the opponent is held under 140-yards rushing and 17-25 when they don't.

  • Throughout the Tommy Tuberville era, Auburn held the opponent to under 100-yards rushing 40.8 percent of the time and under 140-yards during 65.6 percent of their games. From 2011-2015, Auburn held the opponent to under 100-yards rushing 13.8 percent of the time and under 140-yards rushing 35.4 percent.

  • Auburn's defensive issues defending the run is magnified in conference play. During the 41 conference games from 2011-2015, Auburn has allowed 199.0 yards rushing per game for 5.03 yards per attempt.

  • Conference opponents have averaged six percent more than their rushing average when facing Auburn. SEC teams have rushed for over 200-yards during 21 of Auburn's last 41 conference games for an average of 37 points per game.

Personnel:

Auburn possessed a preeminent run defense during their National Championship run in 2010. Built around a solid defensive front-4, Auburn ranked No.5 nationally in run defense on first down. Since 2010, Auburn's average ranking defending the run on first down is No. 87. Last season Auburn finished at No. 66, Auburn's highest ranking over the past five seasons. With 18 scholarship defensive lineman, Kevin Steele's defense has the potential to improve upon last season's No. 66 ranking in first down run-defense. The return of Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams is a great start for the 2016 Auburn defense as the 2015 Auburn defense played at a higher level with Lawson in the lineup.

With Carl Lawson in the lineup, Auburn had a 10 percent improvement in run defense, 13 percent improvement in tackles for loss, 54 percent increase in sacks and an astounding 148 percent increase in quarterback hurries. Excluding Cassanova McKinzy, the 2016 Auburn defensive line returns everyone but two players, which means 86 percent of last year's production returns this season. Montravius Adams, Dontavius Russell and Devaroe Lawrence combined for 117 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 19 quarterback hurries. Maurice Swain, Byron Cowart, Andrew Williams and Raashed Kennion should be able to provide quality play in the rotation. The key is finding a replacement for McKinzy to provide a bookend for Carl Lawson.

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There are several options to team up with Carl Lawson at the end position with Jeff Holland, Raashed Kennion, Justin Thornton and Paul James. Prince Tega Wanogho is coming off an injury and gives Auburn yet another option at defensive end. Coach Rodney Garner will have a great rotation on the interior line with the addition of Antuan Jackson (early enrollee), and Derrick Brown added to the mix. I cannot recall a season in recent memory of Auburn possessing this level of depth and talent up front. With this level of depth, it is a great year to break in new talent without having to place too much responsibility on the shoulders of the true freshman. Great defenses are built around a strong front, and the prospects are high for the Auburn defensive line.

The concern on defense will be the lack of experience at the LB position. Tre Williams has four career starts, which is four times the amount of starts than any other LB on the roster. The acquisition of Illinois transfer T.J. Neal should be a great addition because he brings talent and experience to the field and will likely team up with Tre Williams. Javiere Mitchell has seen action in 39 games but primarily on special teams. When Auburn transitions to an actual 4-3, he is the odds-on favorite to be the third linebacker on the field. Cameron Toney, Darrell Williams, DeShaun Davis and Richard McBryde will compete for a possible starting role or at minimum provide much-needed depth. Coach Travis Williams has a major challenge ahead regarding the LB's preparation without the benefit of experience.

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Tre Threat is an early enrollee and will be available for spring practice. If Auburn can remain reasonably healthy at this position, Threat likely redshirts. Having him available early is a luxury and quality insurance should his services be required this season. It will be interesting to see how Jeff Holland is utilized this season. Recruited as a linebacker, he also has shown promise at the "buck" position. He has plenty of upside to evolve into an impact player on defense, something Auburn desperately is in need of to take the pressure off of Carl Lawson. From 1990-2006, Auburn's leading tackler during a game was a linebacker, 73 percent of the time. From 2007-2015, it has dropped to 52 percent, including a major drop off to just 31 percent in 2015.

If Auburn is to improve defensively in 2016, it will be because the front-seven performed at a higher capacity. Kevin Steele will utilize multiple fronts as the Auburn defense will transition between the 4-3, 3-4 and 5-2 based on the opposition. He is a firm believer in being multiple in this day and age of facing a variety of offensive schemes. Regardless of Auburn's schematics, the Tigers will need to show discipline, recognition and awareness to defend the run, which should make the opposition more predictable.

Thoughts?

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I'm intrigued as to why you didn't consider Cowart as a possible End opposite Lawson?

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In this conference That sad tale of D should get you fired. Without the great fortune of finding a transfer Dback to play QB and a couple of absolute miracle plays, that's exactly what would have happend by now.

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^In all honesty, 2013 and '14's results probably should've been reversed.

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I'm intrigued as to why you didn't consider Cowart as a possible End opposite Lawson?

I believe his future is at tackle, where his quickness can become a major asset. I think we will see Cowart playing inside and outside in 2016.

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Stat Tiger needs a full time job with al.com!

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Malzahn announced Javiere Mitchell plans on graduating but won't be part of the football team this season.

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The best recruiting for Auburn's defense this year were the parents of Montravious Adams and Carl Lawson. Along with their parents' advice and both young men deciding that they had unfinished business, their decisions in fact give us a nucleus to build around.

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I'm intrigued as to why you didn't consider Cowart as a possible End opposite Lawson?

I believe his future is at tackle, where his quickness can become a major asset. I think we will see Cowart playing inside and outside in 2016.

The coaches are leaning Cowart out to be an edge rusher.

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