The gap along Auburn’s defensive line looks a bit wider with two key pieces out.
Junior defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk and sophomore defensive tackle Coynis Miller were both sidelined during Auburn’s first workout of fall practice on Friday — limiting the Tigers as the defense works to fill the missing link along its fierce front four.
Those Tigers have the firepower to be one of the best defensive lines in the country this year, with standout Derrick Brown anchoring one defensive tackle spot, Marlon Davidson back at defensive end and Nick Coe roaring again at ‘Buck’ end with plenty of experienced depth behind them all. But Auburn is still trying to fill the void where then-senior Dontavius Russell plied his craft last season at the other defensive tackle spot — and that’s where the undisclosed injuries to Newkirk and Miller will set back the line.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn expects Miller to miss a stretch of fall camp and for Newkirk to be out even longer, missing part of the season. He said Friday that it’s possible Miller could be back before the end of camp, but that while Newkirk would be out longer the Tigers think they’ll have him back before the end of the season.
Junior Tyrone Truesdell is the healthy candidate left working in that other defensive tackle spot next to Brown. The coaches have talked, too, of moving Coe to play inside as well as at Buck. T.D. Moultry has earned plenty of playing experience behind him on the depth chart at Buck.
“You know, what I really think it does is that it gives you a chance to develop — even some of those younger guys,” Malzahn said of those injuries at defensive tackle. “They’e got an opportunity, when those guys are gone, to develop some depth there. That’s really the way we're looking at it.”
Malzahn said graduate transfer additions Zach Farrar and Jay Jay Wilson both hit the ground running on Friday, showing their experience and fitting in fast during their first practice on the Plains.
Farrar, a wide receiver, arrives with two years of eligibility remaining, after transferring to Auburn from Youngstown State after getting there by way of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College after originally signing with Oklahoma. Farrar has two seasons of eligibility left to play at Auburn.
Wilson is playing tight end and H-Back, after transferring in from Arizona State, where he played tight end and linebacker.
Out there on the field, Malzahn said it was clear those two had their fair share of experience and knew what they were doing out on the practice field.
“You can tell they’re veteran guys, I’ll tell you that,” Malzahn said of them both. “That’s the thing that stood out to me today. They were veteran guys.
“They were out there and they caught on quick and just after one day of practice, I think they will be able to help us.”
Schwartz and Shivers return
Sophomores Anthony Schwartz and Shaun Shivers were back in helmets Friday, after being away from spring practice while running for the Auburn track and field team.
Malzahn doesn’t expect either to miss a beat. To prove it, he points to the impact they both made as true freshmen last season. In the era of early enrollment and summer school, Schwartz didn’t arrive at Auburn until August last year because he was off running track competing for championships internationally. His August arrival didn’t stop him from rolling up 568 yards from scrimmage last year.
“Anthony Schwartz showed up Aug. 1, and he really made a huge impact not even going through the summer as a true freshman,” Malzahn said. “He’s a smart guy. And the thing about it, even when he was running track, he was around as much as he could even to watch practice.
“And (Shivers) is the same way. Both those guys are real smart guys, attention to detail guys, real competitive. They both can really run.”
Apart from Newkirk and Miller, junior offensive lineman Prince Michael Sammons and sophomore offensive lineman Austin Troxell were both out, too, at practice Friday.
Troxell tore his ACL in the spring and is expected to miss the season.
Malzahn said Sammons, though, could be back “right after fall camp.”