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Auburn's Defensive Line 'Youth Movement' Will Be Vital To 2024 Success

How quickly will the Auburn freshmen defensive linemen be able to acclimate to SEC football?
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AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn's defensive line might rely on several freshmen to play this upcoming season, going by today's spring practice session.

Allowing 155 yards on the ground per game, per CFB Stats, Auburn's 2023 defense came in at #78 in the nation. Beyond Marcus Harris, the Tigers did not possess an interior defensive lineman who could be consistently disruptive in the run game. That leads into the 2024 spring practices.

There are simply not enough upperclassmen ready to be high-impact players. That means several younger players will be forced into action, ready or not.

Just watching how much the fundamentals are being taught, this is not a unit that is even at par right now. It probably should not be considering the first and second-year players on the depth chart. 

Realistically, this defensive line depth chart is being rebuilt with a major youth movement. Here are some individual takeaways on what's been seen thus far.

Hard not to be high on edge defender Jamonta Waller. Defensive line coach Vontrell King-Williams is consistently praising Waller's effort and ability to pick up what is being taught. Those are good signs.

He's still no place near ready to handle first down and ten, straight-at-you running plays from experienced SEC offensive tackles. Plays in space, blitzes off the edge, and chasing down the ball carrier from behind, are categories Waller is showcasing well; it's much the same as Waller's high school exploits.

Seeing sophomore Keldric Faulk play on the edge, he's certainly big enough. 270-plus is a guess at his actual size. He looks solid with pursuit drills and playing downhill. Curious to see him this next fall as he needs to be able to be a run stuffer as much as a pass rusher. 

Can Faulk do that through the course of 12 games? He needs to be because Auburn's depth is no place near where it needs to be in terms of experience and size.

When Faulk is not in the game, it's possible that true freshman TJ Lindsey could be in the lineup. He's a long and muscular young man playing defensive end. He's more advanced than most strong-side defensive ends at this stage of his career. 

Lindsey is a prospect that looks the part and he's also quite coachable. Like the other young players, all the Auburn coaches are taking the time to coach him up on the finer points of technique. Tigers fans should still be excited about how Lindsey moves in space and how he can use his length to fend off offensive tackles; the Auburn defensive line needs more prospects with Lindsey's length overall.

Moving inside, Malik Blocton's frame is tremendous. Just a freshman, the 280-plus-pound defender is just learning the ropes. Gap control, hand placement, and how to use his hips to power through an offensive lineman are some of the areas he continues to work with defensive line coach Vontrell King-Williams

Blocton is a player that Auburn needs to get on the field but he still has quite a bit of learning to do. 

Redshirt freshman Darron Reed is a stout player. He is built to be able to handle the inside run game. Need to see him in a true live scrimmage to know just how much he's developed from Year 1 until now, but he looks good on the hoof and will give the Tigers another much-needed interior defensive tackle player to add to the rotation.

While today is only one practice, it's safe to say there's a lot of young defensive line talent on the Plains. Now, will they be ready to be major contributors this fall? Auburn needs them to be