When one talks starters for the defensive front seven in the SEC, it is easy to tell if they understand SEC football. This is the usual reason that media outside the SEC consistently make flawed analysis of the conference during the preseason. To analyze a good SEC defense, one must look deeper than the starting seven.
Every successful team in the SEC, in modern times, has rotated the front seven in some fashion. This is one of the trademarks of every dominant defensive line of the last six BCS Champions.
With this in mind, it would seem a good place to start taking a look at the 2012 Auburn Tigers is that defensive front seven. With Coach Brian VanGorder taking over as the defensive coordinator and his position specialty expected to be the linebackers, starting with them seems appropriate.
Auburn began the 2011 season with the same group of starters that are expected to start this year. Daren Bates and Jonathan Evans played on the outside, and Jake Holland in the middle. Later in the year, Eltoro Freeman had to take over in the middle due to injuries Holland sustained.
Eltoro Freeman, a senior in 2011, made 46 tackles, three sacks, forced two fumbles and broke up two passes.
Cassanova McKinzy (6’2” 224 pounds) a true freshman out of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama.
Javiere Mitchell (6’2” 197 pounds) a true freshman out of Leeds High School in Leeds, Alabama.
Jake Holland (6’1” 235 pounds) a junior that had 34 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one pass breakup in 2011.
Chris Landrum (6’3” 235 pounds) a red shirt freshman with no game experience.
Jonathan Evans (5’11” 225 pounds) a senior that contributed 30 tackles in 2011.
Jawara White (6’2” 230 pounds) a sophomore that contributed 16 tackles in 2011.
Daren Bates (5’11” 205 pounds) a senior that contributed 82 tackles, two sacks and three pass breakups.
Kris Frost (6’2” 215 pounds) a redshirt freshman with no game experience.
Justin Garrett (6’1” 205 pounds) a sophomore that contributed seven tackles in 2011.
Anthony Swain (6’2” 205 pounds) a redshirt freshman with no game experience that projects at safety or outside linebacker.
As a group, this unit has not progressed as hoped over the last three seasons. With either Brian VanGorder or Tommy Thigpen expected to coach this unit up this season, it is expected to begin progressing quickly. Better performance in this area is a must for a more successful 2012 season.