Noah Igbinoghene

While the defensive line garners most of the praise, accolades and attention on the Auburn defense, the secondary might be the position group in line for most improved on that side of the ball for the Tigers. 

The Auburn defense was middle-of-the-pack in defending the pass in the SEC last season, giving up about 220 yards a game through the air, while allowing 16 passing touchdowns and making 14 interceptions. 

Experience in the starting lineup in the secondary gives the Tigers a good chance on improving those marks in 2019. 

The secondary will be led by two seasoned starters in free safety Jeremiah Dinson and strong safety Daniel Thomas, who started 12 games and 13 games, respectively last season. 

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said it feels good to have "that comfort zone on the back end" with Dinson and Thomas. 

"They're capable of dissecting plays before the snap by personnel, splits, down and distance," he said. "They've got a lot of experience. They have played a long time."

Malzahn also noted how essential the two are as team leaders. 

""We're going on our fourth year," said Thomas. "We just want to lead these boys and do the best we can do and have a good outcome this year. It's pretty nice, though, just being able to be leaders on this team."

Thomas and Dinson both hauled in two interceptions last season, as did Javaris Davis, who moved to cornerback in the offseason after starting 11 games as nickel back last season.

Noah Igbinoghene seems to have locked down the other cornerback spot after starting nine times last season, including the last six games. Igbinoghene has steadily improved over the past year after converting from wide receiver to cornerback in 2018 and seems to be getting very comfortable in his new role. 

"You can just tell by the way I play now — it's like I've been doing it probably my whole life, honestly, so it really doesn't feel like I've just moved over here even though a lot of people think like that," he said. "I'm way more confident, way more relaxed back there, and I feel like I'm back to me now."

Igbinoghene had a strong first season at cornerback for the Tigers, leading the team in passes broken up with 11, making 50 tackles and picking off one pass. He attributed some of his first-year success to being around veterans like Thomas, Dinson and Davis, as well as former cornerback Jamel Dean, who left early and now plays for the Tampa Bay Bucs. 

"They're probably the reason I was able to play so good last year," he said. Just having them back there with me last year, really it was a big confidence booster for me just to know that I have trust from them to be out there with them."

That experience might also pay off for Christian Tutt, who saw action in 11 games last year, starting two. Tutt seems to have locked down the starting role at nickel back. 

The Tigers also have solid depth in the secondary, with safeties Smoke Monday, Jamien Sherwood seeing action in 13 games last season. Jordyn Peters also has plenty of experience, playing in 13 games and starting three last year. He's expected to back up Tutt at nickel. 

The secondary and the Auburn defense got the better of the offense in the Tigers' first scrimmage last Thursday, generally stymieing the offense while generating multiple turnovers, including an interception by Javaris Davis on a deflected pass that he took for a touchdown.

Auburn held its second scrimmage of the season on Wednesday after print deadline. 

With fall camp coming to a close and preparations for the season-opener beginning, Auburn fans might get word soon on whether true freshman Bo Nix or redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood will start against Oregon. 

Malzahn has been tight-lipped about the competition between the two, although Nix has been observed being the first quarterback out with the first team during drills. Gatewood and Nix ended spring practice in about even in the competition.

The two haven't been helped much by the receiving corps, which has been somewhat hobbled by injuries this fall. Speedster Anthony Schwartz suffered a hand injury that required surgery early in fall camp and will likely miss the season-opener. Schwartz also didn't participate in spring drills while focusing on track. Eli Stove and Will Hastings, both of whom are coming off ACL surgeries, have been limited in practice. 

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