2021 Auburn Defense Preview

2021 Auburn Defense Preview

The Auburn defense took a step back in 2020 after a solid 2019 season. The 2021 Auburn defense will look to regain the 2019 form. Last season the Tigers gave up 24.7 points and 406 yards per game. That was an increase from the prior season of 18.6 points and 323.9 yards. New defensive coordinator Derek Mason not only will bring in a transition of a new coach but also a new philosophy. The Tigers will go with a 3-4 look after typically going with a 4-3 under Kevin Steele.

Mason brings experience and success as the head of the defense. While he was the defensive coordinator at Stanford from 2011-13 the defense was never worse than second on the Pac-12. They finished first in 2012. His experience in the SEC as the head coach at Vanderbilt from 2014-2020 is valuable, and he knows what to expect from opposing offenses.

2021 Auburn Defense

Defensive Line

Upfront is where Auburn had the biggest drop-off from 2019 to 2020. To a degree that was to be expected after losing Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson to graduation and the NFL. Auburn was not expected to fall the way they did though. SEC teams were able to push around the Auburn front in ways it had not been seen in many years. Auburn gave up 163.4 yards per game on the ground after only yielding 115.5 yards per game in 2019.

Auburn lost Big Kat Bryant (transferred to UCF) and Tyrone Truesdell (recently left the program) but is not without talent. Especially at defensive end with rising star Colby Wooden. The sophomore was named to the SEC All-Freshman team last season and tied for the team lead with four sacks. He also added in 9.5 tackles for loss and 41 tackles overall. Finding a replacement for Truesdell in the middle will be key though so Auburn is not vulnerable to the better rushing teams on their schedule.

Linebackers

This was supposed to be the strength of the Auburn defense last year, but they were hampered due to not having K.J. Britt for most of the season. They were also without Chandler Wooten due to him sitting out the 2020 season because of the pandemic. Britt is gone from the program, but Wooten will be returning to play alongside two of the better linebackers in the SEC. Wooten had 27 tackles and one interception in 2019 as a reserve player.

Senior Zakoby McClain and junior Owen Pappoe should be two of the major leaders on the defense. McClain finished third in the SEC last season with 113 tackles and added three sacks. Just ask Alabama fans and they will also tell you that he is a threat to pick off a pass as well. For Pappoe, he was second on the team with 93 tackles and tied with Wooden for four sacks. He also added an interception against South Carolina.

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Secondary

Auburn got a huge boost with the return of cornerback Roger McCreary. The senior would have been a lock to be drafted this past spring and coming back for one more season on the Plains will just enhance his stock as a cover corner. McCreary led the team with three interceptions and added in a forced fumble. His best performance of the season came against Ole Miss when he held Elijah Moore to just 16 yards in the early season victory. On the other side players to look for are Jaylin Simpson who is coming off an injury, Nehemiah Pritchett, and West Virginia transfer Dreshun Miller.

At safety, the position is highlighted by Smoke Monday, who was voted to the All-SEC Second Team in the preseason. Monday was fourth on the team last season with 73 tackles. He also added in one sack and two interceptions. The biggest pick of the year came late in the third against Tennessee. Monday stepped in front of a Jarrett Guarantano pass in the endzone and took it back for a 100-yard touchdown. The score put the game away for the Tigers. The other safety spot will be key for the Tigers to fill with Jamien Sherwood now gone. Sherwood was third on the team with 75 tackles.


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