Auburn Football: Five Tigers Key to an Iron Bowl Victory Over Alabama

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Sep 6, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Elijah Daniel (97) defends San Jose State Spartans quarterback Blake Jurich (14) during the second quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Daniel

Similar to Shon Coleman aiming to replace Greg Robinson at left tackle, Elijah Daniel was expected to help replace Dee Ford, and then Carl Lawson, after the two best Auburn pass rushers from 2013 were unavailable this season. Ford graduated and now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, while Lawson was injured in spring practice and has missed the entire season.

But Daniel also suffered an injury during the spring, and it took a long time for him to make up for the practice time and reps he missed as a result.

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“He got behind,” Ellis Johnson said midway through the season. “I think he’s still trying to catch up with some of those older guys. … He’s had some missed sacks, he’s lost contain on the quarterback a few times. He really hasn’t had but about three completely healthy weeks of practice. He’s a rep guy. He needs all the work he can get as a young player.”

Still, the sophomore has been one of the best pass rushers on the team this season, and he may be peaking at just the right time.

Daniel has only 12 tackles this season and 3.5 tackles for loss, but he is tied for the team lead with 17 quarterback hurries. Six of those hurries, as well as his only sack of the year, came last week against Samford.

The increased playing time came as a result of yet another lost defensive end: sack leader DaVonte Lambert. Hopefully, Daniel can build on that performance and excel Saturday during the Iron Bowl.

Next: Nick Marshall