July is flying by and only six more Saturdays until college football is back in full swing. September 1st can’t come fast enough for most of us. The countdown is now at 47, as we continue our SEC: 50 Players in 50 Days. We have previewed three players so far: Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, and Missouri quarterback James Franklin. Today, we’ll hop to the defensive side of the ball and take a look at Auburn Tiger defensive end, Corey Lemonier.
2011 was a trying year for Auburn, especially the Tiger defense. Often at times, they were just flat outmatched by the more superior offensive teams in the SEC. The Tigers did finish 2-1 versus the SEC East, but only could muster a 2-3 record versus the competition in their own division. Auburn was destroyed by LSU, Arkansas and Alabama, which made the “War Eagle” faithful a little restless. If there was one shining star on the Auburn defense in 2011, it was sophomore defensive end Corey Lemonier.
Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn:
Corey Lemonier recorded 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2011, and was selected as First Team All SEC by the coaches. In the biggest games, Lemonier gave his best efforts. Versus Arkansas, he had four tackles, a sack, and two tackles for loss, but his best game was versus the Florida Gators. He dominated the line of scrimmage collecting six tackles, three tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries and two sacks. His accomplishments versus the Gators did not go unnoticed, as he was selected as the SEC Defensive Player of the Week and the Rivals.com SEC Player of the Week.
Moving forward to 2012, Auburn has a ton of young talent returning. This talent was given the opportunity to play meaningful snaps in 2011. Auburn should be vastly improved on defense in the coming year.
Brian VanGorder steps in as the new defensive coordinator. He returns to the college game after a five year stint in the NFL. From 2001-2004, VanGorder was the defensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs, and under him, the Bulldogs were very good on defense. Coach Gene Chizik is hoping VanGorder can pick right back up on the college gridiron where he left off in Athens.
The 2012 Auburn Tiger defense has the potential to be very good across the front four. Along with Lemonier, they return veteran Dee Ford, Craig Sanders and Nosa Eguae, all of whom rotate at the defensive end position. In the middle, the Tigers return tackles Jeffrey Whitaker, Angelo Blackson, Kenneth Carter, Gabe Wright and Devaunte Sigler all of whom have size and quickness.
Expect Auburn to be improved on defense in 2012, frankly, because they can’t be much worse. They gave up an average of 408 yards per game, which ranked them 81st in the nation. With depth returning along the defensive line, an experienced SEC defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tigers make a move into the upper half of the defensive categories in the SEC.