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Auburn revamps defensive starting lineup in loss to Mississippi State

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp promised a revamped lineup for Saturday night’s game against Mississippi St.

He delivered on the guarantee.

With less than 45 minutes until kickoff, Auburn announced a series of changes to its defensive starting lineup.

Sophomore Raashed Kennion started at defensive end in place of Gimel President. President started against LSU for the injured Carl Lawson (hip).

Muschamp shuffled the secondary with only defensive back Jonathan Jones and safety Tray Matthews in the same spot as they were last week.

Blake Countess shifted from defensive back to safety replacing Rudy Ford with true freshman Carlton Davis jumping in next to Jones. True freshman Jeremiah Dinson entered the starting lineup at nickel for Tim Irvin.

At linebacker, Justin Garrett was back in the starting lineup after missing week three with a hamstring injury joined by Tre Williams.

In four games, Auburn has had 11 first-time starters on defense, and 17 first-time starters overall.

It wasn’t until the second half that the group really started to click.

Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott opened the second half where he left off in the first – picking apart the Tigers’ secondary. A forced fumble by Carlton Davis, recovered by Jonathan Jones, helped the defense bounce back.

Mississippi State had three-and-out on its next possession, and closed out the final quarter and a half 0 for 5 on third downs.

“The defensive staff kind of figured out what they were playing,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They were having trouble running the football, and they were really committed to throwing the football.”

The lineup changes did nothing to solve the issue of generating a pass rush in the absence of Carl Lawson.

Auburn’s coaching staff has tried to downplay how much the team misses Lawson, but for a second straight game the Tigers’ defensive line was a non-factor in the passing game.

Prescott had all the time he wanted in the pocket the entire night. Auburn didn’t come up with a single sack, and only managed to make Prescott uncomfortable a couple of times.

The defensive tackle combo of Montravius Adams and Dontavius Russell that looked so promising against Louisville were barely mentioned. Russell finished the game with two tackles, and Adams had one.

Auburn’s last sack came in overtime of its 27-20 win over Jacksonville State.

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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