AUBURN, Ala. — When it comes to line play, Auburn football defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wouldn’t be surprised at anything sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Brown does on the field.
That includes offense, too.
“(Brown) can play the six technique (defensive end), he can play the three technique (4-3 defensive tackle),” Steele said. “He can play the nose. He could probably play right guard, right tackle, maybe center, if he can snap it.”
Steele is high on the all-around talent of Brown, who enters his sophomore season as the projected heir to Montravius Adams’ starting spot as ultra-athletic defensive tackle.
And like Adams, who was also a 5-star recruit from the state of Georgia, Brown has the versatility to play a number of roles on the Auburn defensive line. Steele, who has coached football for more than 35 years, says that kind of talent doesn’t come around too often.
“When you can command double-teams inside… that’s rare (to find) people who can do that every day,” Steele said. “But then the other thing that’s kind of fun to watch is you put him at six technique and he lines up on a tight end and you see a little different expression. Whoa.”
I like the way Auburn DL Derrick Brown takes on pulling guard here. Physical for a true freshman. https://t.co/WFjRiXQkW8
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 15, 2017
According to junior linebacker Deshaun Davis, part of Brown’s value is how deceiving he is in appearance. The defensive tackle weighs 312 pounds. But at 6-foot-5, he doesn’t look like the normal space-eating nose tackle — even if he stuffs movement like one.
“He’s a real long guy, and he’s stronger than he really looks,” Davis said. “When he grabs hold of you, there’s not too much you’re really going to do with him. When you see him you think he’s about 290, but he’s not moving.”
Brown didn’t start a game last year on Auburn’s deep defensive line, finishing with 11 tackles (1.5 for loss) and 1 sack. But since the start of spring practice, he’s been a fixture on the first-team defense.
“Derrick is a big, physical guy,” Davis said. “He’s still getting his feet wet being with the ones and working with the ones, but when you’re with the starting group, a lot is expected of you. A lot is expected of you on the defensive side of the ball anyway, but when you’re with the ones, you really have to be on your A-game.”
Steele doesn’t see that as a concern for Brown, who he says is well on his way to becoming a “key piece” for the Tigers in the 2017 season.
“He’s a very, very talented young man,” Steele said. “Very athletic. He’s smart. He’s got a tremendous amount of pride and work ethic.”