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Gus Malzahn says Auburn filled pass rush needs
Feb. 4, 2015

Auburn's Gus Malzahn takes center stage celebrating on during Signing Day 2015

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala.  Gus Malzahn put his new coaches on the road to restock Auburn's defense, to find linemen who can rush the passer, to find defensive backs who can cover.

Auburn's head coach said new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and secondary coach Travaris Robinson used their Florida connections to deliver the players the Tigers needed on Signing Day 2015.

Auburn signed 13 defensive players Wednesday, six from Florida where Muschamp and Robinson coached last year for the Gators. Their list included defensive end Byron Cowart, considered by some recruiting services as the No. 1 prospect in the country.

Malzahn said Muschamp was "hand picking these guys to fit his defense. He's very excited about that. We got some guys who can help us immediately. The big thing is rushing the passer. I think everybody saw that last year as a deficiency."

There's a possibility that Malzahn could pair veteran Carl Lawson, who missed last season with a knee injury, with Cowart to power Auburn's pass rush.

"You're talking about one of the best player in the country," Malzahn said. "He'll have a chance to compete and a chance to be on the field immediately with his skill set."

The final numbers: An even Auburn Signing Day split: 13 defensive players, 13 offensive players, one punter. 

Ten are from Georgia; eight are from Alabama, including Mr. Football running back Kerryon Johnson; and eight are from Florida. The only outsider is running back Jovon Robinson, who is from Memphis, but played last season in Georgia where he was the No. 1 junior college running back in the country.

"Those are the three states we really hang our hats on, and I thought there was good balance with that." Malzahn said.

Malzahn brought in defensive players from all three of his prime states. Plus, he said, "we've got Carl coming back" among the veterans, and "we've got three guys we feel like next year can help us rush the passer."

"That was one of our priorities, get some guys who can rush the passer with just four guys and not have to blitz. We were able to do that two years ago. We weren't able to that this past year, so that was definitely a focus."

There was a touch of intrigue in Cowart's signing. He announced he was attending Auburn early in the morning, but his fax didn't arrive until the afternoon. In between, a frenzy of tweets circled the globe about Cowart's decision.

Malzahn smiled at "the media, the uncertainty, and all that."

"But we felt good about it the whole time," he said.

Muschamp delivered Cowart, and Malzahn said that was because his new defensive coordinator "has a great reputation. He's sent so many people to the league. He can help guys to get to where they won't to get.

"Coach T-Rob is very good with relationships. He did a very good job for us." 

Overall, Malzahn said, "We're feeling very good on the defensive side of the football after this signing class."

Here's Gus Malzahn's break down on some of his defensive players:

• "Tim Irvin (5-9, 190, defensive back) from Westminster High School down around Miami, Fla. He’s a very good football player. He’s tough. He’s a very good tackler. Coach T-Rob had a very good relationship with him, and he came on board with us really in a short period of time after his official visit."

• "Carlton Davis (6-1, 182 defensive back), a big, long defensive back. Coach Travaris Robinson said we really need to go after this guy. He was committed to another school, and the relationship really with coach Travaris Robinson helped with him. He came on a visit and really felt at home. This guy has a chance to help us right off the bat."

• "Montavious Atkinson (6-1, 200, defensive back), from Langston Hughes High School in Georgia, has been committed to us for a long time. He is a very good tackler and a very good athlete, a no-nonsense guy. He will fit our defense very well and we think he will have a chance to help us immediately, too."

• "Jeff Holland (6-2, 230, linebacker) from Trinity Christian School in Jacksonville, has family that used to play basketball here. We have been on him a long time. Coach Rodney Garner has a great relationship with him, coach Travaris Robinson and coach Will Muschamp already had a relationship with him, too. He is a pass rusher and we really feel like he can help us in the pass rushing. He has a lot of flexibility, he is a great tackler, too."

• "Jeremiah Dinson (5-10, 180 defensive back) from American High School in Miami, Fla., was one of the first names coach Travaris Robinson brought up. Coach said, 'This guy can really play. He can run, he can play, and he is a tough guy.' He came on a visit and loved it right off the bat."
• "Javaris Davis (5-11, 185 defensive back) from Ed White High School in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the faster players in all the country, I believe a 10.3 guy. There aren’t a lot of 10-3 guys running around. He is going to be a great cover guy, he also returns kicks, and we really think this guy will have a chance to help us right off the bat."

• "Jordan Colbert (6-3, 200, defensive back), a big defensive back playing safety, is a 6-foot-3 200 pound guy from Griffin High School has been committed to us for a long time. He did a very good job of helping us recruit over the past year. He has the physical set that he can play right off the bat, so we are very excited about him."

• "Darrell Williams (6-3, 225 linebacker) and Richard McBryde (6-2, 210, linebacker) both of those guys Coach Muschamp feels really good about. They are long guys, they are physical guys, they’ve got instincts, and they are both tough. That was definitely something we needed."

• Jaunta’Vius Johnson (6-3, 330, defensive lineman): "Coach Garner has been on him for a long time. We really feel like he can be an impact player. He’s very explosive. He uses his hands well. He’ll definitely help us."

• Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. (6-8, 250, defensive end/linebacker): "He came on our radar early in the season. He’s a big guy. We feel like this young man has unbelievable potential. He’s only been playing the game one year. He’s got a motor. We are very excited about him rushing the passer. That was one of our emphasis and we feel like he can help with that."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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