TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — At 6-foot-5 and 6-4, respectively and both in the 300-pound range, Lorenzo Washington and Brandon Deaderick aren’t easily lost in a crowd.
Put someone like nose guard Terrence Cody between them and attention wanes.
Regardless of star power, the two defensive ends will be called upon at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Auburn as the Alabama defense confronts what coach Nick Saban calls the best running team they’ve seen all season.
As the bookends in the 3-4 defensive scheme, Washington and Deaderick certainly won’t be caught in the headlights of the Iron Bowl rivalry. Both seniors, the two have 51 starts between them.
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“The defensive line has sort of continued to develop,” Saban said. “We have some older experienced players and we have some young players that have played really well for us this year. Some guys have gotten opportunities and done a good job. We’re pleased with that. I think it’s going to be important in the game. You have to fit blocks and play physical on the line of scrimmage. This is a really good running team and this is going to be a challenge for that group as well.”
With reverses and misdirection plays in Auburn’s bag of tricks, keeping containment on the edges will be a priority for Washington, Deaderick and the experienced reserves who off the bench.
It is actually one of the second-stringers that leads the defensive line in tackles and sacks. Sophomore Marcell Dareus has 28 tackles and 6.5 to lead the All-American Cody who has just 0.5 sacks in his two seasons at Alabama. Cody’s 22 tackles ranks 12th on the team followed by Deaderick (18 tackles) and Washington (17).
“I think we have one of the better D-lines around, just in my opinion,” Deaderick said. “I think we play blocks well, we get after the quarterback, keeping linebackers free. So as long as we’re playing like that, the sky’s the limit for us really up front.”
The ends no doubt benefit from the threat Cody presents in the middle. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said a double team is necessary to keep the 354-pound anchor of the defense from causing too much trouble. That, on occasion, frees up his two neighbors in three-point stances.
And even when the ends aren’t making stops themselves, occupying blockers freed up linebackers such as leading tackler Rolando McClain to roam freely in the backfield.
“In order for us to have success as a defense, everybody has to do their job and the entire D-line is doing a good job,” McClain said.
Of the two, Washington has more success as a pass rusher. His five quarterback hurries lead the linemen and his two sacks trail only Dareus.
When Deaderick zeros in on the quarterback Friday, he’ll be doing so against an old friend from Kentucky. Auburn quarterback Chris Todd graduated from Elizabethtown High School after playing three years with Deaderick. The last time they spoke, Auburn had just taken care of Tennessee on the road and Deaderick was quick to compliment the improvement of the Tiger offense.
Watching Auburn on tape, he sees a much different team from the one who left Bryant-Denny Stadium on the wrong end of a 36-0 game.
“To me, it seems like they bought in,” Deaderick said of the Tiger offensive line. “They are playing harder, not to say the guys didn’t play hard last year. But it seems like they have more chemistry and everything seems to be running smoothly for them.”