AUBURN, Ala. — Sophomore defensive end Byron Cowart’s emergency appendectomy Wednesday put a dent into Auburn’s depth up front.
But Auburn already had a big backup plan — a 330-pound one, to be exact.
Auburn lined up true freshman defensive tackle Derrick Brown at defensive end in the last two games. With Cowart, who was the second-team defensive end behind Marlon Davidson, now out indefinitely, the Tigers can rely on the depth Brown provides on the edge.
“Derrick has been playing there,” Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said Wednesday night. “And we’ve got some young guys that played in some of the games and gotten some snaps earlier this year … We have the ability to move Derrick out there.”
Brown first got reps at defensive end against Vanderbilt, when Davidson missed some time due to injury. The former 5-star recruit was a weapon against the Commodores’ heavy personnel packages.
“So we were a little bit concerned with the depth at that position because they had been 2-tight end, run the power, block the tight end on the 6-technique,” Steele said last month. “That’s a lot to chew on if Derrick Brown is lined up in front of you as a 6-technique and you’ve got to block him with a tight end.”
Brown has recorded 7 tackles and 0.5 sacks in his first season with Auburn. He is listed as a second-team defensive tackle behind Montravius Adams, but the Tigers’ depth on the interior with players such as Maurice Swain Jr. and Devaroe Lawrence allow Brown to flex outside.
The freshman isn’t the first tackle to play inside and outside for Auburn in recent seasons. Adams played on the edge in his sophomore season in 2014.
“That’s good knowing that you can have a freshman (play) a couple games, but now he switched his position to D-end in like a week, and he can still go out there and have great production,” Adams said last week. “It really just says a lot about him as a player.”
Steele said Wednesday night that in addition to Brown, Auburn can move another player from a different position to defensive end for depth purposes — junior linebacker Cameron Toney.
While he hasn’t seen much of the field as a usual linebacker, Toney plays up front in Auburn’s goal-line package. At 244 pounds, the Tigers can also use him as an emergency defensive end.
“Cam Toney could play there, too,” Steele said. “We rep him there in emergency situations because he travels with us. We’ve repped him in that situation. We’ve got the pecking order.”