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Auburn's defensive signees: The coaches speak

Feb. 6, 2014

Defensive line coach Rodney Garner will have six new players to coach next season

By Phillip Marshall

AUBURN, Ala. – With national signing day having come and gone, Auburn has added 13 defensive players for the 2014 season. With 23 signees on Wednesday, including enrolled junior college transfers, the Tigers went heavy on defense.

Position coaches and head coach Gus Malzahn offer their their takes on the newest defensive Tigers.

Position coach: Rodney Garner

Raashed Kennion *** 6-6, 230, Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast

Garner says:

“Raashed has a tremendous upside. He’s a big-time basketball player. He has great length, great athleticism. He has to get stronger in the upper body to be able to handle the offensive tackles you are going to face in this league. He has the potential to be a very good football player.”

Malzahn says:

“A very long, athletic guy. Coach Garner had him in camp and offered him. I really think that he has a lot of great potential moving forward.”

DeVonte Lambert **** 6-4, 280, Kaysville, Ga./Georgia Military College

Garner says:

“I’m excited about him. He’s a kid that can play both (end and tackle). On first and second down, he can be a really strong run-stopping defensive end. In a third-down situation you can put him inside and create mismatches on pass rush. He has a lot of versatility. He has demeanor and character that reminds me of (senior) Jeff Whitaker. I’m excited about his leadership and what he’s going to bring to the room.”

Malzahn says:

“We really feel like he’s got very good pass rushing skills. He can play the run, his motor is extremely high and we’re very excited about him.”

Devaroe Lawrence **** 6-3, 290, Greenville, S.C./Georgia Military College

Garner says:

“I’m excited about him because he’s a three-for-three (three seasons of eligibility). He has a lot of ability. I think he can definitely help us in the rotation, especially with the athleticism he brings to the position. I think we got more athletic inside than what we were. I’m excited about his development.

Malzahn says:

“He’s got a great motor, very athletic and is a very good run stopper. Coach Garner feels like he’s got a lot of potential. We feel very excited about him.”

Dontavius Russell **** 6-3, 300, Carrollton Ga.

Garner says:

“Dontavius is an athletic, big kid. His uncle (Dennis Wallace) played here. He’s explosive. He’s quick. He can run. He’s smart. He’s strong at the point of attack. He’s a true inside guy that not only can play the run, but he has some quickness and athleticism and can create a pass rush.”

Malzahn says:

“He is a very big athletic guy. He is a high character guy. We are very excited about him.”

Justin Thornton **** 6-5, 230, Prichard/Vigor

Garner says:

“He’s long and athletic, an edge guy. He’s got to get bigger and stronger. He has a chance to be a real force coming off the edge. I think he’ll be a great football player before he’s done.”

Malzahn says:

“A big, long defensive end that can rush the passer.  Coach Craig did a great job recruiting him. I feel like he’ll have a great chance at being an impact player.”

Andrew Williams **** 6-4, 250, McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Academy

“He’s a kid that has a lot of potential, a big upside. I think he’s a good kid. I think it’s important to him. I think he likes football. Hopefully, he’ll come in and make the adjustment from high school to college. Coming from a smaller program, it’s going to be a matter of how quickly he adjusts.

“He has a lot of talent and a tremendous upside. If he will work hard, he has a chance to be a really good football player.”

Position coach: DC Ellis Johnson

Deshaun Davis **** 6-0, 225, Prichard/Vigor

Johnson says:

“Very underrated player. Two days after he committed to us he hurt his knee. Didn't play his senior year. He's going to be a dark horse. Nobody is going to have a clue where he's coming from, but I think he's going to surprise a lot of people. He'll play a lot of football.”

Malzahn says:

“Just a hard-nosed physical guy that just has the nose for the football. He hurt his knee his senior year. If he would have played this year he would have been very highly recruited. We really feel great about him. He did a lot of great things for us on the recruiting end of it.”

Tre Williams ***** 6-2, 217. Mobile/St. Paul’s Episcopal

Johnson says:

“He's one I'm excited about. He played DB as a sophomore, linebacker as a junior and senior. I think he's got great physical skills. Smart. Coming out of a good program. Tough. I believe he has a chance to play early.”

Malzahn says:

“Really one of the keys to this class. We felt like he was the top linebacker in this class, and he’s a guy that’s been with us, committed to us, had opportunities to go wherever he wanted and stayed with us. He was really a big key to this signing class. He’s a great person, a great individual and he’ll make an immediate impact.”

Position coach: Melvin Smith

Kalvarez Bessent **** 6-0.170, St. Mary’s, Ga./Camden County.

Smith says:

“Kalvaraz is the guy I really wanted from Day 1. When I watched all the corners, he filled the profile of what I wanted in a field corner. He's long and lean and really athletic. He has ball skills. He was a running back as a junior and handled the ball a lot. He made a lot of plays on tape.

 “I'm really big on my gut and instinct, and I really liked him a lot as a guy who plays in space.”

Malzahn says:

“Very athletic. Coach Smith identified him as one of the best corners early on. He hung in there and kept recruiting. We feel we have a guy that can help us immediately. He’s got very good ball skills and is a good cover guy.”

Nick Ruffin **** 6-0, 180, Duluth, Ga./St. Pius X

Smith says:

“He reminded me of someone in my past. Really athletic, really smart. Gym rat. Loves the game. He has the right kind of spirit. We had coaches on the staff who had a connection with him since he was a ninth-grader. He came down here, and he liked what Coach Malzahn and all the coaches were about. He committed early. To me, he's one of the most critical guys in the class because he was a guy everybody wanted, but he chose us before we did anything (on the field).”

Malzahn says:

“One of the top corners on our board early on. Coach Smith and Coach (Dameyune) Craig did a great job recruiting him. He is long, he is athletic and he’s got very good ball skills and character. We’re very excited about Nick.”

Position coach: Charlie Harbison

Markell Boston *** 6-2, 200, Sharpsburg, Ga./East Coweta

Harbison says:

“He's a talented kid. He's a good kid. He has ball skills. I love his size. I love his intellect. He's a guy who is a little bit like me. He can do a lot of things. I think he'll be a special player for us.”

Malzahn says:

“He is a very good tackler and a physical guy that we got fairly late. He got better and better his senior year. I really think he will play and at least provide some depth for us.”

Derrick Moncrief **** 6-3, 225, Prattville/Mississippi Gulf Coast CC

Harbison says:

“We need a guy of his caliber to fit in our scheme. He's a guy who can come in and do a lot of things. He’s big and he’s fast. I think he’ll make a big impact right off.”

Malzahn says:

“We needed some safety help. He is a big, rangy guy. He has very good ball skills and is a very good tackler. We think he could be an impact player.”

Stephen Roberts **** 6-0,180, Opelika

Harbison says:

“He's a guy who has cover skills. When a guy blitzes, he's going to be the one in coverage. I love his ball skills. He played offense and defense in high school. He’s versatile. He has man cover skills in the safety position, and that’s big.”

Malzahn says:

“He’s a guy that we identified early and our coaches stayed on. He’s a hard-nosed guy, a very good tackler who will do whatever. He played quarterback for his high school when they needed somebody. We feel really good about Stephen Roberts.”


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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