Freshmen DL 'hungry and want to play'

Bryan Matthews, Senior Editor
Auburn Sports

MONTGOMERY | Rodney Garner signed three freshmen defensive linemen in February and likes what he’s seen from the trio so far this summer.

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Big Cat Bryant, Tyrone Truesdell and Alec Jackson all reported May 28.

“We've had very limited work with them as far as position coaches. We get two hours a week. We spend an hour of it in the classroom,” Garner said. “All three of them have shown a good football IQ. I think all three of them are hungry and want to play. Just listening to Coach (Ryan) Russell, all three of the guys have made progress in that area.

“I think all three of them have responded well, which I know is different from when you get out there in camp. Just watching them move around, the movement skills, change of direction, burst, body control, I think they have a good skill set.”


Bryant may have the clearest path to early playing time. He’ll line up at the Buck position where Garner is looking for pass rushers to replace Carl Lawson.

“He definitely has the length you want from that position,” Garner said. “We're going to give him every opportunity. We're going to give everyone an opportunity. Obviously, we're looking for playmakers. Whoever can give you an opportunity to go out and give you a very productive defense, those guys are going to play.”

Bryant is listed as 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds on Auburn’s roster but Garner believes he’s already bigger than that.

“He looks good,” Garner said. “He's long. He's athletic. I think he's done better and better over the summer. I would think he's probably around 235-240 right now.”

While Bryant needs to continue to add size and strength, it’s the opposite for Truesdell. After putting on almost 30 pounds after his junior season, Truesdell saw his production slip from 90 tackles and five sacks in 2015 to 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks last fall.

That weight is coming off quickly since Truesdell reported at 6-foot-2 and 338 pounds.

“He's lost 25 pounds since they reported,” Garner said. “I'm really proud that he's improving in the workouts. When you talk to Russell and his staff, they're excited about him, encouraged by him. Now they see this guy, they see his talent, they see he can work hard. He ain't last in all the stuff now. That was a shock to his system.”

Jackson, listed at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, could help out at strongside defensive end or defensive tackle.

“Alec’s doing well,” Garner said. “His body, he looks good. I don’t know what he came in at weight-wise, but he’s a long, athletic guy. I think he’s responding well, doing a really good job in the weight room. He’s smart in the classroom; his football IQ is really good. He does a really good job of grasping it.

“All three of those freshmen — I’ve been excited about them.”


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