AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football’s defensive line has been tested this August.
On top of the heat and intense coaching staff, a couple of players have suffered minor injuries. That’s provided an opportunity to gain valuable experience ahead of the season. Auburn has added a couple of players to the list of returners for 2017.
“The first [five] or so will be Andrew Williams, Dontavius Russell, Jeff Holland, Nick Coe and Marlon Davidson,” said defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The Tigers will depend on young standouts, even as they begin their initial season of collegiate football.
“That group of guys, when you factor in another group of the young guys — T.D. Moultry and Big Kat Bryant — those guys, (Tyrone) Truesdell,” Steele said. “Then you’ve got guys like Byron Cowart that move around and do different things. Some days have been a little bit of a struggle more than others simply because of having to mix and match sometimes.”
As a whole, Auburn football has suffered minor injuries this camp, but coach Gus Malzahn sees it as a “blessing.” Steele agrees.
“We’ve mixed and matched a lot. It’s fall camp,” Steele said. “People can look at it as a negative. We’re not going to look at is as a negative. We had times where guys were missing. We haven’t lost guys for the year. We’ve lost guys for practices, and in some cases, two, three, four, five practices in a row.”
That includes Davidson and Williams, who both missed several days.
“We’ve mixed and matched a lot, which is a good thing,” Steele said. “Because we’re going to be able to need that in the year to have multiple people ready to play.”
That’s non-negotiable not only for Steele, but especially for defensive line coach Rodney Garner. He’d like to be able to count the players he can trust to perform in games on two hands, especially through a season in the SEC.
“You’ve got to stay fresh, especially with the way offenses have changed now with the tempo, the no-huddle, the hurry-up,” Garner said earlier this summer. “It’s not the old, traditional football. You’ve got to be able to have 8-10 guys I think up front that you can count on to go out there and play some meaningful snaps.”
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