When Gus Malzahn took over the Auburn Tigers, much was made about the sweeping improvements that were sure to come on the offensive side of the ball. But if the Tigers hope to turn their fortunes around in 2013, it will be the defense that must step up. Auburn will enjoy a veteran-heavy group but will be led by defensive end Dee Ford, who should emerge as a pass-rushing force in 2013.
During his junior season, Ford led the Tigers with six sacks and had eight quarterback hurries to go along with it. He showed a burst off the edge to put pressure on the quarterback with regularity. He will be counted on even more in 2013 following the early departure of Corey Lemonier who played at the other end and brought the pressure as well, totaling 5.5 sacks in 2012.
Ford has embraced his expanded role next season, putting together a strong spring practice and solidifying his place with the new coaching staff as a defensive leader. He has established himself as a fast-twitch player with a great get-off and never gives up on a play even if his first move doesn’t get him into the backfield. His speed and athleticism make him a force on the edge and has him poised to be one of the premier edge rushers in the SEC.
Auburn’s defense relies on the ends to bring pressure, so Ford’s production becomes all the more important. Without another proven edge rusher ready to step in to replace Lemonier, it puts the pressure on Ford to raise his game and pick up the slack. If he can raise his game, Auburn has a chance to get back into the conference race sooner rather than later.