Auburn Football: The Five Biggest Stories of Fall Camp Week 1

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Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive end Nosa Eguae (94) sacks Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) during the first half of the 2014 BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

3. The Defense Needs to Find Pass Rushers

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner told reporters late last week that the “biggest struggle… is we have to find pass rushers.”

Last year, Auburn had Dee Ford, who one of the best pass rushers in the Southeastern Conference. Now, Ford is a member of the Kansas City Cheifs. The heir apparent appeared to be sophomore Carl Lawson. We learned at SEC Media Days that Lawson would miss most, if not all, of the 2014 season following spring ACL surgery. So who will be the team’s best pass rusher?

According to Garner, junior college transfer DaVonte Lambert has impressed the coaching staff. Lambert is currently a second-teamer, but could become a starter by the season opener, or at some point later in the year. And while Garner praised the 6-foot-2, 293-pound junior for his athleticism, Lambert is probably a bit bigger than an ideal pass rusher would be.

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On that note, Gabe Wright has been working at defensive end, and though he has slimmed down this summer in anticipation of the move from his traditional defensive tackle spot, Wright is also larger than most 4-2-5 defensive ends at 280 pounds. With Lawson on the shelf, Wright is the team’s leading returner in terms of sacks after he had three in 2013. Lambert recorded eight sacks last season at Georgia Military College.

So who else could provide a pass rush? The coaching staff has experimented with Cassanova McKinzy coming off the edge in a special 3-3-5 package. But, McKinzy will be needed to man the middle linebacker spot primarily for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Elijah Daniel and LaDarius Owens continue to compete for a starting role at end, and defensive tackle Montravius Adams could contribute at end as well.

True freshman Raashed Kennion entered the discussion last week, though he is obviously quite young and raw. The staff would probably prefer to redshirt Kennion this season, but if the need is big enough, and Kennion proves he can handle it, the youngster could contribute this year. At 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds, Kennion is long and lean – much like Georgia’s Leonard Floyd – and would likely play Floyd’s outside linebacker position well if the Tigers ran a 3-4. However, since he is best suited for the defensive end position in Auburn’s defense, he will need to be bigger and stronger.

Hopefully, someone will emerge from this group and prove that they can get to the quarterback on a consistent basis.