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.
Let’s continue with the defensive line and slide to the defensive tackle position.
- Dontavius Russell (senior)
- Tyrone Truesdell (sophomore)
- Alec Jackson (redshirt freshman)
- Jaunta’vius Johnson (junior)
- Coynis Miller (freshman — summer arrival)
Answers from spring practice
What’s left for Dontavius Russell on the defensive line?
Russell could’ve gone pro early, but he decided to stay in school and come back for one more season on the Plains. This will be Russell’s fourth year as a regular starter. His experience on the defensive line is huge and makes him one of the biggest leaders on the team.
The gap-plugging nose tackle doesn’t make as many plays as his teammates up front. That’s just the nature of the position. However, he created more havoc in the backfield in 2017 for his best season yet. He also added 10 pounds from 2017 to 2018. Russell has the chance to be an even better tag-team partner for the rest of Auburn’s star defensive linemen.
Is Tyrone Truesdell the next man up at tackle?
Auburn knows what it has with Russell, Derrick Brown and Andrew Williams. The fourth defensive tackle spot is a bit of a mystery — and one that could be played by defensive end Nick Coe at times. Yet there’s a lot to like about Truesdell’s chances. He was a surprise contributor as a freshman in 2017 and played the second-team role behind Russell throughout spring camp.
While Russell got heavier over the offseason, Truesdell slimmed down to 314 pounds. He arrived at Auburn at nearly 340 pounds. Under defensive line coach Rodney Garner, Truesdell is turning into a real diamond in the rough pickup for Auburn’s defensive line.
Numbers to know
40 and 37: Russell has played in 40 games across his first three seasons at Auburn and has started 37. That makes him one of the most experienced players on the roster — only Chandler Cox is close to him in career games played with 39.
6: Incoming freshman Coynis Miller had 6 rushing touchdowns as a senior at Jackson-Olin High School in Birmingham, Ala. — the alma mater of Auburn defensive end T.D. Moultry. Although those numbers don’t translate to SEC defensive production, they point to the impressive athleticism of Miller.
Questions for fall
How will Auburn get the next generation ready at nose tackle?
Auburn isn’t extremely strict about its defensive tackles. Some can play the traditional spot and the nose, and the Tigers sometimes swap their starters in those spots, depending on the opposition. No matter the position, there’s a strong chance Auburn will have to replace both of its starting defensive tackles in 2019. Russell is definitely done after this season.
Truesdell got some decent work last season while Alec Jackson redshirted. Both players have the potential to start up front for Auburn at some point in their careers. How Garner decides to get them experience while still relying on the leadership of Russell will be an under-the-radar storyline this fall.
Will Coynis Miller see the field as a freshman?
Miller was one of Auburn’s highest-rated signees of the 2018 class. The Tigers had to hold off late pushes from several schools, including Tennessee, to land the in-state prospect. Miller hasn’t enrolled at Auburn at this point, but he’s still expected to arrive later in June.
Miller’s athleticism and burst at the point of attack make him an intriguing prospect for Auburn’s interior defensive line. With Andrew Williams heading out the door after 2018 and Daquan Newkirk still on the mend from an Achilles injury, Miller could be a factor at traditional defensive tackle, too.