Auburn played a very strong Northwestern team in the Outback Bowl to end the 2009 season. In this game, it was very obvious how thin the Auburn Tigers were at the defensive back position. Let’s take a look at this position for the 2010 season.
Injured in 2009 and returning in 2010:
Mike McNeil was a very productive player before a broken leg caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. He still had an obvious limp at times during spring training. The Auburn staff has reported him at one hundred percent in the last week.
It appears he will go into fall practice fully recovered. This should give him plenty of time to regain his ability on the field. He plays safety.
Aairon Savage seemed to have a huge career ahead of him . He had made All SEC as a freshman and was picked preseason All SEC as a sophomore. He was bitten by the injury bug and missed half the season.
Then disaster struck; he was injured and missed the entire 2008 season. He was healed and prepared to produce again when he fell to injury in preseason practice 2009. He was forced to miss the entire season again.
He petitioned the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility and was granted his request. He approaches the 2009 season with an opportunity to put all of the injuries and disappointment behind him. He plays safety and corner.
He is also being reported as being one hundred percent and ready to produce by the Auburn staff. He will be taking extra care to get through the 2010 season uninjured.
Zac Etheridge had a solid season going into 2009 when disaster struck in the game with Ole Miss. He sustained a brutal neck injury when he made accidental contact with teammate Antonio Coleman. He missed the rest of the 2009 season and many wondered if he would ever play football again.
He thinks that he will play again. He has been working hard on recovering and returning to the field. The latest word is that he should get more news on his chances to return around July 20, 2010. We will all be pulling for Zac to get the green light to return if that is what he wishes. He plays safety.
Daren Bates had a great start to his career in 2009. He was picked for the All SEC freshman team by conference coaches. He played injured in 2009 and had to undergo surgery to repair an injured shoulder in the offseason. He is reported to be at full speed now and is working toward building back his strength and conditioning.
Returning with experience:
Neiko Thorpe had a solid season at corner back in 2009 . He had some good games and some that were not as productive. He has an unlimited ceiling on potential and will look to improve in 2010. He has sub-4.5 speed in the forty and can play safety and corner.
Demond Washington had a solid season at corner back in 2009. He improved in every game he played. He has continued this pattern of improvement through the spring. He has sub-4.5 speed in the forty and can play safety and corner.
T'Sharvan Bell had a very solid season as a red shirt freshman. He finished the year with a two interception performance against Northwestern. He was a pleasant surprise in the defensive secondary in 2009. He has sub-4.5 speed in the forty and can play safety and corner.
Ikeem Means had a year of development as a freshman. He has worked hard toward getting some playing time. He will contribute on special teams and spell starters under certain circumstances in 2010. His potential seems to lean more toward safety.
Jonathan Mincy is an incoming freshman he has sub-4.5 speed and the necessary ability to develop into a productive defensive back. He could contribute on special teams in 2010 as well.
Demetruce McNeil is an incoming freshman that has the ability to develop into a safety or linebacker/safety hybrid.
Ryan White is an incoming freshman. He has sub-4.5 speed in the forty. He can play defense or offense, but possesses the talent to develop into an SEC defensive back. He will look to contribute on special teams in 2010 as well.
Chris Davis is an incoming freshman. He has sub 4.5 speed in the forty. He can play on both sides of the ball. He has the talent and ability to perform as an SEC defensive back. He will participate on special teams as well.
Players that could contribute on special teams in 2010
Rodney Cofield took a red shirt season to work on strength, conditioning, and technique. He will be working toward participating on special teams.
Tyler Mickens took a red shirt as a freshman to work on strength, conditioning, and technique. He should be ready to contribute on special teams in 2010.
Blake Poole took a red shirt year to work on strength, conditioning, and technique. He should participate on special teams this year as he develops.
Dorian Rhodes is another red shirt defensive back on the roster. He could participate on special teams this year.
This is likely the unit of players that will decide how effective the Auburn defense will be in 2010. The defensive line will be very good and could be great. This will help this unit out some.
There were several young players that gained experience in 2009 due to the extensive injury problems. This will benefit the team in 2010. There is some very promising young talent coming in that will attempt to produce.
With the linebackers looking to be solid in 2010, the defensive backs will be tested regularly during the 2010 season. This will be a unit to watch early in 2010 as they develop and learn. It is also the unit that produced the most missed tackles in 2009.
It is imperative that this group of players work on sure and solid open field tackling for 2010.
On the positive side, this is a very fast group of players with excellent closing speed. Auburn fans should see a lot of interceptions. There will be some of that speed utilized to surprise a quarterback or two as well.