Auburn Football: Are the Tigers Building a Legendary Defense?

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IAugust 12, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers celebrates with the trophy after their 43-24 win over the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

One of the aspects of my job that I enjoy here at Bleacher Report in the College Football recruiting department is really breaking down how a team is built via the recruiting trail.

We all turn on the TV and watch the pieces on College GameDay on ESPN and ABC, CBS, NBC and other platforms, but most of the audience fails to realize those stars were once high school recruits. It's an interesting element, but I enjoy it.

When looking to break down another recruiting class, I checked out Auburn and discovered what I believe to be a great trend happening on The Plains: not only is Gene Chizik recruiting well overall, but he's stockpiling great defensive talent.

In 2011, I applauded Chizik and his staff at Auburn for landing an outstanding class that was highlighted by QB Kiehl Frazier and a stable of talented OL prospects. However, when looking back at that class, Auburn's 2012 class and today's 2013 haul, defense was prevalent.

So is Auburn borrowing a page from Alabama's book and building a legendary defense?

In 2011, the Tigers signed four excellent defensive players in OLB Kris Frost, DT Gabe Wright, S Enrique Florence and CB Jonathan Rose. The 2011 class also saw great young defensive talent like CBs Robenson Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead along with DE Jabrian Nilles.

That is a group of seven highly touted and ranked defensive prospects that are currently still young underclassmen at Auburn.

In 2012, Auburn brought in LB Cassanova McKinzy, DE Tyler Nero and CB Josh Holsey as its top defensive signees. Four other defensive recruits were signed to help booster the unit that Brian VanGorder is now in charge of coaching.

To top that all off, in 2013 Auburn has a commitment from maybe the best LB prospect to ever come out in the modern recruiting era in Reuben Foster. At close to 6'2", 250 pounds, Foster has the ability to be a day-one starter at LB for the Tigers.

However, it doesn't stop with Foster because DE Carl Lawson and DT Dee Liner are also two of the top 10 overall prospects in the country this year (per ESPNU). LB Trey Johnson and DE Tashawn Bower are also defensive standouts, evidenced by Scout.com giving them both a 4-star rating.

The Tigers also have three other defensive commitments for 2013 and have a top-10 overall recruiting class this year, according to ESPNU.

On paper, based on my evaluations, rankings and comparing them to other major recruiting services, Auburn has gotten at least 10 impact, starting-caliber defensive prospects over the past three recruiting classes.

In 2013 alone, the class boasts three players in Foster, Liner and Lawson who not only should become starters at Auburn, but superstars. Also, I think Auburn is sitting pretty for 5-star DT prospect Montravius Adams, too.

The SEC prides itself as a conference on defense, and that is where most of the conference's main talent plays. Auburn is led by a defensive-minded head coach in Chizik who has hired a coordinator with NFL experience in VanGorder to run his attacking-style 4-3 scheme.

The defense will be led by Foster, who has NFL potential both mentally and physically. He should be the Mike 'backer and the center of the future defense on The Plains.

Wright, Lawson and Liner should be studs in the defensive trenches while Hosley, Florence and Rose should patrol the back end. Frost and Johnson should flank Foster well and there will still be a surplus of great defensive talent to fill other spots.

Auburn is really on to something, and that "something" is stacking up on elite defensive talent and building a tremendous future defense in the coming seasons.

Edwin Weathersby has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (now ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.


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