Last season, the Auburn Tigers’ defense gave the team a chance to win every game they played. The 2019 defense was not consistently dominant as a unit, but the defensive line boasted multiple All-SEC players who wreaked havoc in opposing backfields.
Now that the unit’s 2019 standouts Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson have moved on to the NFL, the Tigers must produce the next wave of defensive difference makers on the line of scrimmage for Auburn to excel in 2020. If there is anyone who deserves Auburn fans’ trust to do just that, it is the man who has had over 30 of his players drafted into the NFL. That man is coach Rodney Garner.
Today, we take a look at the most productive returning player, a talented newcomer and a wildcard in the defensive line position group. The contributions of these individuals will go a long way in determining if the 2020 defensive line can be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC.
Most productive returning player – Tyrone Truesdell, 94, Sr.
Key 2019 stats – 31 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery
Tyrone Truesdell returns for his senior season as the Auburn Tigers’ most experienced and accomplished defensive lineman. Truesdell was a substitute his first two seasons on the plains. As a junior, he became a starter last season and helped anchor Auburn’s defense.
Defensive line coach Rodney Garner will be looking for this talented senior to take another step forward this year and build on what was an impressive junior season.
Truesdell is built like a prototypical interior run stopper. He has definitely shown that ability in his first three campaigns, but Truesdell was also third on Auburn’s team in sacks last season, trailing only Davidson and Brown.
If Truesdell can continue to be stout against the run and increase his impact as an interior pass rusher, then his efforts could result in being one of the better defensive tackles in the conference.
Talented newcomer – Zykeivous Walker, 3, Fr.
Key 2019 stats – GSWA All-State Selection in Georgia, 85 tackles, 29.0 TFL, 11.0 sacks
The tradition of talented defensive lineman wearing single digits at Auburn continues in 2020. The true freshman from Ellaville, GA, enrolled at Auburn in January so he could get an early start on college classes and workouts. Considering the uncertainty that arrived in mid-March, those couple of months getting familiar with Auburn’s playbook, work out plans and coaching expectations are likely to pay dividends in the fall.
It is pretty rare for true freshmen to be contributors on the defensive line in the SEC. However, the previous defensive number 3 (Marlon Davidson) started every game in his four years at Auburn in which he was not sidelined with injury.
With Davidson now on the Atlanta Falcons roster, there is an opportunity for someone like this gifted freshman to step in and make plays for the Tigers’ defense. Walker will have much to learn, but his strength could allow him to be an effective player especially against the run in his first college season.
Wildcard – Derick Hall, 29, So.
Key 2019 stats – 13 tackles, 1.5 TFL
Yes, Derick Hall plays the Buck position for the Auburn defense. In Auburn’s scheme, the Buck position is technically linebacker and coached by new Auburn assistant Al Pogue.
However, similar to a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker, Hall and his fellow Bucks can almost always be found on the line of scrimmage (in a two-point stance on the outside shoulder of the tackle or tight end). Since that is the case, Derick Hall is included in the defensive line grouping.
Last season, Hall contributed as a true freshman on a defense that was extremely effective and very talented. Even though the numbers from 2019 are not eye-popping, he definitely looked the part as a first-year player.
The explosiveness and effort were evident early in the year, and he eventually earned his first career start against Ole Miss. The speed Hall provided off the edge had the potential to change games last season. No one else on Auburn’s roster has Hall’s combination of size, acceleration and length.
In 2020, expect Hall to refine his pass rush techniques and strategies and turn his potential into consistent production. It would be surprising if Derick Hall is not one of the most improved players on Auburn’s entire roster for the 2020 season.
For other Auburn positional breakdowns:
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: email@example.com