Auburn’s Malzahn loads up on defensive line
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is known for his offense, but made the
biggest splash on the defensive line with his first recruiting
Defensive tackle Montravius Adams and end Elijah Daniel both
announced on Wednesday that they’d play for the Tigers, joining the
group’s highest rated signee Carl Lawson on the front line.
”In this league you win on the offensive and defensive lines,
and the defensive line was a focus,” Malzahn said. ”The three
guys we have, we feel like are three of the best in the entire
country. Coach (Rodney) Garner’s a great coach and he’s going to
have three guys that have a chance to help us immediately.”
The 23-player class also included a signing day pickup in
four-star running back Johnathan Ford, a former Vanderbilt
commitment. The strong finish vaulted Auburn into a No. 10 finish
according to Rivals.com, 11th by 247Sports and 13th by Scout.
Carver-Montgomery four-star quarterback Jeremy Johnson led three
signees at the position and the Tigers signed four wide receivers.
Along with the defensive line, those spots in the offensive
backfield were huge needs for a team that ranked last in the
Southeastern Conference in total offense and 13th in yards allowed
The need for immediate help led Malzahn to bring in six junior
college transfers, three of them already enrolled.
A big objective was to get more physical.
”I told our staff in the very first staff meeting we had that
we needed to find football players that are going to be
Auburn-type, tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar guys,” Malzahn said.
”I really feel like for the most part we did that.”
The Tigers added offensive lineman Deon Mix, a former
Mississippi State commitment, on signing day but had loaded up on
blockers in the past two classes. This time the emphasis was on the
opposite side of the line for a defense that struggled to stop the
run and generate much pass rush, even with junior defensive end
Corey Lemonier, who declared for the NFL draft.
Garner supplied a boost with previous relationships to both
Adams and Daniel before leaving Georgia for his alma mater.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Adams is a five-star tackle who had 34
stops behind the line as a senior at Dooly County High School in
”I think this is going to be my eighth year coaching college,”
Malzahn said. ”I don’t know if I’ve seen a bigger, athletic guy
than him. I really feel like the sky’s the limit with him. Coach
Garner had a great relationship with him. That really helped get
Daniel was ranked the No. 3 defensive end and 27th-best prospect
”Pass rushing was one of our big needs, and this guy can really
do it,” Malzahn said.
Malzahn also cited Lawson’s continued commitment as a key after
prospects like five-star linebacker Reuben Foster and four-star
defensive tackle Dee Liner – who both signed with Alabama –
withdrew their pledges following coach Gene Chizik’s firing.
”When a lot of guys went south and went other ways, he hung in
there with us,” Malzahn said. ”He provided the stability on the
defensive side to have the class that we did. ”
He said Johnson, Alabama’s Mr. Football, fulfilled a similar
role on offense. He could compete with junior college transfer Nick
Marshall, a former Georgia signee, and returnees Kiehl Frazier and
Jonathan Wallace for the starting job.
Marshall passed for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns last season at
Garden City (Kan.) Community College, while rushing for 1,095 yards
and 19 scores.
Johnson is also a basketball standout, but Malzahn said he will
concentrate on football as a freshman.
”I know his goal is to be the starting quarterback here and
what it takes to be a starting quarterback in college, especially
in this conference, it takes a lot of focus,” Malzahn said. ”But
he is a very good basketball player.”