The Auburn defense has run into another hiccup on the path to improve. Defensive end Dee Ford has suffered a knee injury, and the timetable for a return remains unknown, according to Joel A. Erickson of AL.com.
The good news for Auburn is that head coach Gus Malzahn doesn't believe the injury is serious and expects the senior to bounce back quickly.
"He didn’t practice today, [Thursday]" Malzahn said. "But we feel like it shouldn’t be too long to get him back on the field."
Malzahn also refused to comment on the severity of the injury.
"I’m not getting into specifics of anybody’s injury," Malzahn said.
An injury to a quality defensive player is the last thing Auburn needs heading into the season. The Tigers defense ranked 13th in the SEC last year, allowing 420 yards a game. The lousy defensive performances played a key role in why the team finished with a 3-9 record.
Are you concerned for Week 1 if Ford cannot play?
The defensive line already lost Corey Lemonier to the NFL draft, and Ford is expected to be the top pass-rusher on the team. He led the team last season with six sacks and finished second with eight quarterback hurries.
Auburn begins the season at home Aug. 31 against Washington State, an up-tempo team that will look to score quickly and wear down the Auburn defense.
It was going to be a tough matchup for the young defense, that will be even younger if Ford is unable to play. Now, freshmen defenders Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel are expected to see more reps in fall camp with Ford sidelined.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson likes what he sees from the young guys, per the Erickson report.
The two ends, Elijah and Carl, continue to show that they're capable of mixing it up on this level, Johnson said. I think they're coming along well enough that we're going to be able to play those guys sometimes and hopefully early.
Auburn may need both players to play immediately depending on how fast Ford can recover.