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Auburn Football: Big Changes in the Defense?

Kevin McGradySenior Writer IFebruary 28, 2010

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Daren Bates #25 and Josh Bynes #17 of the Auburn Tigers celebrate Bynes interception in the final minutes of their 41-30 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Freshman sensation, and All SEC performer Daren Bates started all 13 games of the 2009 season at safety. He will be moving to linebacker in 2010. He came to Auburn at 5'11" and 195 lbs. He could bench press 325 lbs. and had a 38 in. vertical leap ability. He runs also runs a sub 4.5 40 yds.

From his looks he has gained some muscle since joining the team last year. While it was not possible to get an accurate weight, he looks to be safely above 200 lbs. at this point. All of his strength and conditioning numbers have improved in the last year.

Auburn fans can expect him to excel to All SEC caliber play at any position. He is simply a football player with heart and determination. It is absolutely ironic that he was rated a two-star recruit. He had 46 solo tackles and 24 AST as a true freshman.

I do not think the important part of this news is the change in position. Auburn has three starting linebackers returning for 2010. They also have one with starting experience and four more backups at the position. Why would Auburn be moving such a valuable player?

First off, they did not move him to be a backup. This young man is a sure and certain defensive impact player. He is absolutely stellar at rushing defense. So why move him to the linebacker position?

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One might assume that Auburn was simply too deep at safety with the projected return of Zac Etheridge, Aairon Savage, and Mike McNeil. While the defensive secondary will be a solid strength for the defense in 2010, I don't buy that. 

When Gene Chizik was the defensive coordinator for Auburn there was a young man that terrorized opposing offenses. He was 5'11" and 213 lbs.. Antarrious Williams added a different dimension to the defense. He was a week side linebacker.

It would add speed to the defensive pursuit. It would also make short pass coverage much better. With Bates running a sub 4.5 and ElToro Freeman running a sub 4.5 on the other side, it gives a blazingly fast ability. 

The all important outside linebacker to quarterback time would be in the 2.1 second range. It also gives Auburn two linebackers outside, that are as fast, or faster than the running backs of opposing teams. 

This move predicts a few key points about the upcoming Auburn defense. The coaching staff has great confidence in the physicality of the defensive line. The coaching staff is preparing for multiple blitz packages. The coaching staff is going to force teams to play Auburn in the middle.

Oddly enough, I think this move indicates that the coaching staff thinks Auburn will again have dominating defensive tackles to anchor the defensive line. If this is the case, with the strength at defensive end in 2010, opposing offenses will have an extremely tough time. 

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