5 Auburn defenders who elevated during spring football

Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin and his coaching staff have repeatedly told reporters that their best path to a successful season in 2022 is a run-first offense. If he’s right, the Tiger defense must also stop the run and neutralize opposing quarterbacks in the Southeastern Conference.

Winning football games in the spread-offense era with an old-school approach encourages an aggressive defense that can slow down some of the best offenses in college football. The type of brute strength required to flourish in the toughest division in the best conference in America requires lots of depth.

On Thursday, we looked at five players on offense who improved their chances for playing time after last Saturday’s A-Day game. Now we switch to the defense, which will be pivotal if Auburn’s plans to win with an offense centered around the run game will work.

Read more Auburn Football: Road to the Pros: Roger McCreary shaped by relationship with mother, upbringing in Mobile

Projecting Auburn’s depth chart at the end of spring practice

What we learned about each position for Auburn this spring

Dylan Brooks

Auburn has a dynamic edge-rushing duo with Eku Leota and Derick Hall. However, two isn’t enough. Dylan Brooks could add depth for defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding.

“We’re hoping to get more pounds on him over the summer. He’s really learning how to use his hands a lot better. He’s starting to learn the system and the playbook, ”Hall said about Brooks. I have been working with him in the dorms, going through the playbook, and getting the terminology down. Once he gets that down and gets more reps, I feel like he will be a really, really good player. ”

Brooks has an opportunity to wreak havoc on offensive lines in the conference.

Cam Riley

The 6′5 230 linebacker put himself on the map with many fans with his five-tackle performance in the Birmingham Bowl loss against Houston. He continued gaining ground during spring camp. Riley has the talent to be a great tackler for the Tigers.

Riley played in 11 games as a true freshman. As a sophomore, he could play in pivotal third-down situations for the Tigers.

“He is a versatile player, and I think the biggest thing that he gained last year was No. 1 the experience, and then took that, and there was a hunger after the season, I’ll say that, ”Schmedding said. He wanted to be more active in this defense and play significant minutes, and it showed up. Sometimes people say they want it, but their actions don’t always back it up; you see the weight he’s gained.

Wesley Steiner

Replacing Zakoby McClain and Chandler Wooten is a tough task. Steiner hopes to join Riley as part of a retooled linebacker room. Steiner had six tackles in the Birmingham Bowl. He’s played in several games over the last two seasons.

“I certainly miss having Chandler and Zakoby around. Those guys were really fun to play around and be around. They were really good older brothers, at least for me. It’s not been the end of the world without them because the things they’ve tried teaching us, they’ve made sure younger guys try to do as well as the whole unit, ”Steiner said. I have personally missed Zakoby and Chandler out there. They were awesome teammates and awesome big brothers. They did a lot to help develop and grow our unit. I’m just trying to take what I learned from them and apply it to the rest of the unit so we can continue to move forward in a good direction.

JD Rhym

Rhym is a freshman from Valdosta looking to be one of the defensive backs to help replace Roger McCreary and Smoke Monday in the backfield.

Rhym, at 6′1, has the range to defend taller receivers and tight ends with the speed to play on the edge or in the slot.

Caleb Wooden

This spring, Wooden had an interception and forced a fumble in his first practice. He continued making plays during the 15 practices that concluded with the A-Day game at Jordan-Hare. Wooden is a talented safety who could get significant playing time as a freshman.

Wooden has an opportunity to join his older brother Chandler on the field this season.

“Watching him grow up from when he was younger, playing plays at safety and running back and all that stuff, now it’s just exciting to be on the same field with him,” Chandler Wooden said. He’s got a couple of things to tidy up, but I always tell him that. It’s cool to see him out there. I’m like, ‘That’s really my brother out there.’ He’s on the field making plays. It was just great. Hopefully, this fall, we’ve got two Woodens on the field at the same time.

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