While Auburn football is still in the process of landing all of the necessary pieces to produce an on-field product capable of more than just treading water in the SEC West standings, one of their most recent signees in the secondary could already be on the hook for some big-time responsibilities from the jump.
Bydarrius Knighten, who made the jump from Southeast Missouri State of the Ohio Valley Conference, will be asked to fill some big shoes in his first season for Auburn after using the NCAA’s one-year no-penalty transfer window to make his way to the Plains.
Given the loss of perhaps the Tigers’ toughest tackler Jamien Sherwood to the NFL Draft, Derek Mason will need someone to stop the big run or to punish a receiver mid-flight the way the current New York Jets LB used to on the Plains at the safety spot.
According to 247Sports’ Nathan King, Knighten could be the guy:
…Auburn is helping to shore up the loss of Sherwood in the safeties room with one of the most experienced defenders recently available in the transfer market. Knighten, a transfer from Southeast Missouri State, committed to Auburn on Friday, further diversifying the skill sets and possible lineups of new defensive coordinator Derek Mason’s secondary. In four seasons at SEMO, including only a seven-game slate this spring, Knighten racked up 262 tackles, six interceptions and 24 pass breakups.
He played mostly safety but was capable of sliding down to the nickel spot, and Auburn could ask him to do a bit of both. Regardless, if his primary spot is safety, he gives sophomore Ladarius Tennison the option of moving back to nickel after he was the starting safety alongside Smoke Monday during spring practices.
While many on the net may look at his alma mater, SEMO, and immediately discredit his ability to contend with the speed, size, and physicality of receivers at the SEC level, the recruiting staff at Mississippi State, Oregon State, Washington State, Utah, Purdue and Louisville clearly all saw a viable secondary option just as Derek Mason did.
Knighten joins a secondary featuring shutdown DBs Roger McCreary and Smoke Monday that was graded as college football’s best secondary duo by Pro Football Focus. If Auburn football is going to be turning heads this year, Knighten’s ability to track down the opposition in the open field and keep up with receivers could be a primary contribution to the cause.