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

class.

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

per game.

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

Vienna, Ga.

”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

him here.”

Daniel was ranked the No. 3 defensive end and 27th-best prospect

by 247Sports.

”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.”