Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) is sacked for a loss against Auburn during the first half of the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, December 2, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton

Malzahn, Auburn players believe defensive line will be a strength

After finishing in the top 15 in total defense a season ago, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn believes his defense could be even better in 2018.

“I really feel like our strength, once again, will be our front seven, like it was last year,” Malzahn said Thursday at SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame. “And I think big picture-wise, we have a chance to be as good defensively or possibly even better.”

Linebacker Deshaun Davis thinks that all starts with the defensive line. Davis rattled off a host of talented young players, when asked about the strength of the defensive line. He points to Dontavious Russell, sitting 20 yards away, as an integral piece. He names Derrick Brown, who had 9.5 tackles for loss last season. He even singles out Andrew Williams, who has increased his playing time each season, as having underrated talent.

That depth, he said, is what will propel Auburn in the coming season. 

“I just named like seven or eight guys. Believe it or not if they had to step up and be a starter, the production wouldn’t change at all,” Davis said. “You can say we have one of the best defensive lines in the SEC, but I think we have one of the best defensive lines in the country. I’m not just saying that because I play behind those guys and I’m supposed to speak highly of my teammates.”

The best in the country?

“I think we do,” Davis said. “You can turn on the film and judge for yourself.”

Georgia linebacker D'Andre Walker recorded 40 tackles in 2017, tied for seventh on the team, but ranked second in tackles for loss (13.5) and in sacks (5.5). Defensive back J.R. Reed recorded 79 tackles in 2017, second on the team behind Roquan Smith, who left for the NFL. Reed also recorded five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions. Cornerback Deandre Baker ranks second among 2018 returning players in tackles and interceptions in 2017. Linebacker Monty Rice recorded 22 tackles as a freshman

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