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Top pass rusher

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Who will develop into Auburn's top pass rusher this spring?

James Crepea | jcrepea@al.com

We're taking a look at each position group as Auburn prepares to open spring practice on Feb. 28. The fifth of a nine-part series looks at the defensive line.

Projected depth chart:
Buck
Jeff Holland, junior, 13 tackles with two sacks
Paul James III, redshirt-junior, three games in three games before season-ending injury - expected to seek medical redshirt OR
Nick Coe, redshirt-freshman, redshirted in 2016

Nose tackle
Dontavius Russell, redshirt-junior, 29 tackles with two pass breakups in 13 starts
Derrick Brown, sophomore, 11 tackles with one sack and one fumble recovery
Jauntavius Johnson, redshirt-sophomore, missed 2016 due to injury
Antwuan Jackson Jr., redshirt-freshman, redshirted in 2016

Defensive Tackle
Andrew Williams, redshirt-junior, 13 tackles with three sacks
Byron Cowart, junior, six tackles with one for loss in 10 games
Derrick Brown, sophomore, 11 tackles with one sack and one fumble recovery
Tashawn Manning, freshman

Defensive end
Marlon Davidson, sophomore, 38 tackles with six for loss including 2.5 sacks with a forced fumble and fumble recovery
Byron Cowart, junior, six tackles with one for loss in 10 games
Tyler Carter, redshirt-sophomore, one tackle in three games

Departed: Carl Lawson, 30 tackles with 13.5 for loss including nine sacks; Montravius Adams, 44 tackles with 8.5 for loss including 4.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and an interception; Devaroe Lawrence, 13 tackles with three for loss including a sack; Maurice Swain, 14 tackles with 1.5 for loss

Due to arrive in the fall: Markaviest Bryant, Alec Jackson, Tyrone Truesdell

Outlook: Auburn's two most critical personnel losses were on the defensive line in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams and spring will be the early indicator as to who will provide pass rush for the Tigers this fall.

There are several viable candidates, with Marlon Davidson returning off a strong freshman campaign at defensive end.

At the Buck position, look for Jeff Holland to be the leading option to take over for Lawson, who had his best season off the edge.

Holland has the stature and skill set to play with his hand down or upright, much in the same way Lawson did.

Auburn spring position preview: QBRBWR | OL

Paul James III will likely be limited this spring and Nick Coe is coming off a redshirt season but is highly thought of by teammates.

On the interior of the defensive line, Adams is by far the biggest departure but Auburn also lost Devaroe Lawrence and Maurice Swain.

Andrew Williams, who had three sacks last season, Byron Cowart and Derrick Brown should all see increases in their respective work loads in the spring.

It's been a disappointing first two years on the Plains for Cowart, who enters his second spring practice.

The arrival of Markaviest Bryant in the summer should add another presence off the edge, but until then the development of returning linemen might be the top defensive focus of the spring.

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I like our DT rotation and Marlon is solid at the SDE spot. 

The Buck is going to be interesting and we really need a good pass rusher there. I think Coe could be a beast. PJ3 came in with high expectations. If he's healthy, he should be able to do well as a pass rusher. And of course Holland is the current favorite. I really hope at least one of these guys takes a huge step forward and we have a solid pass rush from that side. 

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I agree with Holland. I do think he would have more sacks when he learns not to overrun the play. He does create some anxious moments for QB's. I hope he can play another level higher this year. 

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