AUBURN, Ala. — Even with Jeff Holland’s early departure into the 2018 NFL Draft, Auburn football’s defensive line has a lot of confidence early in spring camp.
Junior defensive tackle Derrick Brown looks over on the edge to Holland’s former position of Buck, and he sees a ready-made replacement in sophomore T.D. Moultry.
“That’s the thing: We’ve got T.D. replacing Jeff, and I think he’s just as solid,” Brown said. “He’s definitely stepped up and played big these last three days of practice. He’s doing his job. You can’t ask much more of a guy than that.”
Holland recorded 10 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hurries last season as one of the most productive pass rushers in the SEC. By comparison, Moultry only had a total of 15 tackles — 2.5 for loss — and 1.5 sacks as a true freshman reserve in 2017.
Still, the Tigers have plenty of belief in the 6-foot-2, 240-pound sophomore from Birmingham, Ala. Holland made a similar jump from his sophomore to his junior season, going from a 2-sack reserve to a 10-sack starter who could declare early for the NFL.
“If you see T.D., you’ll pay attention to him practicing,” senior linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “He’s a freak of nature. Some of the things he does … he’s going to bring another edge to our defense because of his abilities.”
Moultry is the hands-down favorite to replace Holland at Buck, especially after upperclassman Paul James III’s decision to leave the program. Moultry has been the first-team Buck so far in spring camp on a defensive line that returns starters in Brown, Dontavius Russell and Marlon Davidson.
“He’s just getting to a point now where he’s starting to hone in on his work, and everything is becoming much more crucial to him,” Brown said. “Every second you get a live down, every second counts to get to the quarterback.”
Finding another elite pass rusher is essential to Auburn’s defensive success in 2018. Under Gus Malzahn, the Tigers have struggled whenever they haven’t had a consistent sack presence.
Moultry has all the physical tools to do that in 2018. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said late last year that Moultry “doesn’t have a control knob, he’s got an on and off switch … asleep and wide-open.”
When Moultry turns that knob all the way to the right, he impresses teammates with his speed. In only three practices, he’s been able to showcase it to the fullest.
“He’s a fast guy,” Davis said. “He will allow us to leave the defensive end on the quarterback alone because he has the ability to put his foot in the ground and chase down the quarterback. We’ve seen him chase down [sophomore quarterback Malik Willis] a couple times already. His ability speaks for itself.”