Tyrone Truesdell, Kameron Stutts

Defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell, right, battles offensive lineman Kameron Stutts a drill in spring practice

In a previous column, the topic was the 2019 Auburn football team’s experience on the offensive line but lack of proven depth on the second units.

As is the case with the offensive front, the defensive line has a chance to be a team strength, and it should be, but there is a depth concern with that group, too.

It was a really big deal for the Tigers when defensive tackle Derrick Brown decided not to enter the 2019 NFL Draft and stay on campus for his senior season, but the Tigers must replace Dontavius Russell, a four-year starter. He is a guy who is missed and there is no sign anybody on this year’s roster is ready to perform at Russell’s level other than Brown.

Additionally, the Tigers must replace top defensive tackle backup Andrew Williams, who signed a free agent deal with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Tigers have plenty of depth at defensive end, more than enough to move returning starter Nick Coe inside to tackle if they want to go that route. At 6-foot-5, 291 pounds he is plenty big enough to be successful at tackle.

Whether or not Coe moves it will be important for Tyrone Truesdell, a 6-foot-2, 310 junior, to step up this season. He arrived as a talented but extremely raw prospect. He has improved a good bit the past two years, a trend that needs to continue, especially due to health concerns with defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk plus a lack of consistency from Coynis Miller.

After transferring from junior college with three seasons of eligibility in January of 2018, Newkirk has missed both spring trainings with separate injuries and saw only limited playing time last fall. Miller arrived as a high school All-American, but made just five tackles last season as a freshman.

There is a possibility one of the larger defensive ends in the 2019 signee class could get a look at tackle this year, but there is no doubt that keeping the top guys healthy this year will be a key to success for defensive line coach Rodney Garner’s group.

Most of the early commitments for Auburn’s 2020 football recruiting class had been offensive prospects, but defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and linebacker coach Travis Williams received very good news last weekend with two pickups.

Trenton Simpson, who is rated as the No. 4 outside linebacker prospect in the country, chose the Tigers over North Carolina and others. He is a 6-feet-2 1/2, 220 pound prospect out of Mallard Creek High in Charlotte, N.C.

Simpson’s decision was followed by one from 6-foot-3 1/2, 207-pound Cameron Riley from Hillcrest High in Evergreen, a player who caught my eye as a star sophomore on the 2017 Class 3A state championship team. Riley, who chose the Tigers over Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU, is ranked as the No. 23 outside linebacker in the 2020 class. It won’t surprise me to see his rating improve with a strong senior season because he has excellent size plus plenty of athletic ability.

Mark Murphy is the editor of Inside the Auburn Tigers magazine and newsletter

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