Earlier this week I took a look at Auburn’s offense and some key stats and numbers that I found from last season. Today I want to take a look at the other side of the ball. The Auburn defense.
Two names really stick out to me on the Auburn defense are Carl Lawson, a defensive end, and Montravious Adams, a defensive tackle. Why you ask? Well, both Lawson and Adams were supposedly silent commits to Clemson football.
The Tigers recruited both of them heavily and both, on signing day, flipped from Clemson to Auburn. They are both starters and we’ll look at their numbers as well as the defense as a whole.
Auburn’s defense gave up 24 rushing touchdowns last season, as well as an average of 182.5 rushing yards per game. So how does that stack up nationally? Clemson gave up 14 rushing touchdowns and 125 yards a game.
Nationally Auburn finished 92nd out of 128 teams against the rush. Clemson finished 32nd. And for a bonus point, Bama finished 1st in the nation against the rush allowing only 74 yards per game. (Clemson football rushed for 145 yards against the Tide in the National Championship game) And since Bama is the most recent common opponent between Clemson and Auburn from last year, I can tell you that Auburn rushed for 91 yards on 37 carries versus the Tide. But enough about Bama.
The combo of the aforementioned Lawson and Adams collectively contributed 61 tackles last season. Lawson, injured during the year only played in 7 games however. Auburn will be missing the 4 of 5 top tacklers from last years defense.
Two linebackers and two defensive backs.
They do however return their leading tackler from last year. Johnathan Ford is a 6’0″ 200lb junior defensive back. He will also return kickoffs and punts. He collected 118 tackles for Auburn last season. From afar, that is a cause for concern for any defense. Your defensive backs shouldn’t be leading the
team in tackles. That is usually a sign that your defensive line and your line backers are allowing the ball carrier to advance past the first two lines of defense. That is usually a recipe for disaster. On the flip side of that, Auburn’s base defense is a 4-3, but they line up in a nickel a lot as well. The nickel allows for a defensive back to be used as a line backer, in most situations. Similar to the role that Travis Blanks had for Clemson last season.
Speaking of the defensive backs. Carlton Davis is a sophomore DB that will see plenty of playing time for the Auburn defense this season. He had 3 interceptions and 56 tackles last year.
Other than Davis and Ford, the defensive backfield will be introducing first time starters. Auburn gave up 228.6 yards a game through the air last year. That number was good enough to rank them 70th in the country against the pass. They were ball hawks though. They snagged 14 interceptions as a unit in 2015 which has them tied for 33rd in the country. Adversely, Clemson allowed 168 yards a game through the air, which landed them 12th in the nation.
Again, these numbers can be a little misleading. When you are giving up over 180 yards a game on the ground, the need to throw the ball is reduced drastically. Ask any football coach in the world and you’ll get the same answer. If you can run at will, run at will. Control the clock and the game, limit your opponents possessions and that is a winning formula 99.9% of the time.
I look for Auburn to stay in the Nickle (four down lineman, two linebackers, five defensive backs) for the majority of the game against Clemson. They will be aggressive and send pressure from many different angles, but it’s nothing that Watson and company hasn’t seen before. Don’t let the skewed numbers fool you.
There are some athletes on this Auburn defense. They can run and they are big. I’m just not sure there is enough depth across the defensive line to be able to hang with Clemson’s face paced offense. Look for Clemson to find personnel mismatches and exploit that young Auburn secondary. Barring a sloppy game offensively, I’d give Clemson the edge in this particular match-up.