Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.
After a look at No. 1 cornerback Jamel Dean, here’s a glance at the position as a whole.
- Jamel Dean (junior)
- Noah Igbinoghene (sophomore)
- Christian Tutt (freshman)
- John Broussard Jr. (junior)
- Traivon Leonard (sophomore)
- Jayvaughn Myers (sophomore)
- Malcolm Askew (redshirt freshman)
- Roger McCreary (freshman — summer arrival)
Answers from spring practice
How will Auburn address its depth concerns at cornerback?
Depth at defensive back is arguably Gus Malzahn’s biggest concern heading into the 2018 season. The secondary has pieces — and ones that can move to several different spots — but there isn’t a lot of returning experience. Auburn addressed that in the spring by bringing in 4-star early enrollee Christian Tutt and moving sophomore wide receiver Noah Igbinoghene to cornerback.
Their moves bolstered a group that was quite thin as Javaris Davis took more reps at nickel than cornerback. Davis could easily stay there for the fall, where his excellent speed and cover skills should stand out. But that will most likely mean a new player will start opposite Dean in 2018.
Could a newcomer emerge as the No. 2 cornerback?
That’s the direction Auburn’s secondary is leaning after spring practice. Igbinoghene was an instant hit at cornerback. One source inside the program told SEC Country that Igbinoghene could be an NFL cornerback one day with his track star athleticism. The main concern, though, is experience — especially at a position that will leave players on an island.
Then there’s Tutt, who looks like a strong candidate to be at least one of the top three cornerbacks on the roster in 2018. Tutt was a quick learner in Auburn’s scheme and will get plenty of opportunities to see the field this fall. Traivon Leonard is a wild card after his surprisingly strong freshman campaign in 2017, but if Davis stays put, these two will be the favorites.
Number to know
13: Excluding Dean from the group, the seven cornerbacks listed above have 13 combined career tackles — 8 for Broussard and 5 for Leonard. Igbinoghene and Tutt, who might be the favorites to start in 2018 across from Dean, have not played the position yet in college.
Questions for fall
Will things stay this way, or will Javaris Davis move back to cornerback?
Pieces can move rather fluidly in the secondary of Kevin Steele’s defense. Jeremiah Dinson has already moved from nickel to full-time safety, while Davis is back at nickel after splitting time between there and cornerback for most of the 2017 offseason. If Davis doesn’t start there, he’ll most likely play opposite Dean in 2018 — giving Auburn an experienced cornerback tandem but a new starter at nickel.
The challenge for Auburn’s staff is to find the best combination for a retooling secondary. Could Jordyn Peters take a starting job after missing time with a knee injury in spring camp? Where Peters ends up could affect the pieces at cornerback. If not, Auburn is most likely looking at Igbinoghene as a surprise starter in 2018.
Can Auburn’s pass defense stay strong with a new starter at cornerback?
Dean is already inheriting a tough job in replacing Carlton Davis, a lockdown cornerback against some of the best receivers in the entire country. But pass defense doesn’t fall on one player. This unit will have to adjust to new faces at the cornerback positions, and they’ll have to hit the ground running.
Auburn’s pass defense has gone from a punchline to a power in the last few seasons. Auburn has been able to replace top players before, with Dean and Javaris Davis stepping up last year. To avoid a drop-off, the Tigers will have to do it again with some newcomers.