The key to stopping UMass runs through Auburn’s defensive line

UMass named Taisun Phommachanh its starting quarterback ahead of the Minutemen’s season-opener against New Mexico State.

The decision by UMass head coach Don Brown proved to be wise, as the former Georgia Tech and Clemson quarterback passed for 192 yards and rushed for an additional 96 yards in the 41-30 victory over the Aggies last Saturday.

Brown told the media Monday that they are pleased with Phommachanh, and hope to continue using packages that make him comfortable.

“We tried to give [Phommachanh] some plays that he’s very comfortable with,” Brown said Monday. “We’re really comfortable with him. (Offensive coordinator Steve) Casula has done a good job preparing him, and I thought that bared out.”

Phommachanh has Power Five experience but did not see much action during his time at Clemson and Georgia Tech. That is one advantage that Auburn has on the UMass quarterback, as the Tiger defense is primed to battle the best offenses in the country.

This weekend, Auburn sends two returning starters to the defensive line, Marcus Harris and Jayson Jones. Jones, the Tigers’ starting defensive tackle, missed just one tackle in 370 snaps. As for Harris, he created 15 pressures last season.

Two exciting transfers will fill out the defensive line. Vanderbilt transfer Elijah McAllister will get the start at jack linebacker after recording seven total pressures last season in Nashville.

The most exciting starter for the UMass game is Mosiah Nasili-Kite. Kite, who is the SEC’s most underrated transfer according to Mike Farrell Sports, made 26 tackles last season and created 16 pressures with two sacks at Maryland in 2022.

It is not a given, but it is almost a lock that Auburn will earn its first win of the 2023 season on Saturday against UMass. In order to guarantee a win, the defensive line will need to be relentless in their effort to make Phommachanh uncomfortable all game long.

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Story originally appeared on Auburn Wire