The Best Front Seven in College Football (Part 2 of 5: Defensive Tackles)

July 18, 2018 By Skye Underwood

Returning Auburn Defensive Tackles (left to right) Sophomore Tyrone Truesdell, Junior Derrick Brown, Fifth-Year Senior Dontavius Russell, Fifth-Year Senior Andrew Williams


This is a five-part featured series on ‘The Best Front Seven in College Football’ as the 2018 season draws near. College football aficionado Skye Underwood has studied teams from across the country pouring over returning starters and experienced backups, depth charts, stats, film, potential NFL prospects, etc. to determine why he believes Auburn has ‘The Best Front Seven in College Football.’ Part 1: Introductory • Part 2: Defensive Tackles • Part 3: Defensive Ends • Part 4: Bucks • Part 5: Linebackers



Russell celebrates after a big stop

Dontavius Russell, RS Senior, DT, (6-3, 320)

Let’s start up front in the middle with the anchor of that front seven, four-year starter and fifth-year senior Dontavius Russell. The defensive tackle – he doesn’t like it when you call him a “nose tackle”- could have entered the NFL Draft, but chose to return for his final year of eligibility on the plains. At 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, the Carrollton, Georgia native is a clog in the middle and will be depended on as one of the most veteran leaders of the entire team. Last season as a junior, Russell totaled 46 stops with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. The centerpiece of the 2018 Auburn defense, Russell was considered the best defensive tackle coming out of the state of Georgia in 2014, rated a four-star by the 247Sports composite and the 12th best defensive tackle in the country coming out of Carrollton High School. He redshirted his first year and has been a starter every year thereafter. Russell’s decision to return for his redshirt senior season was Auburn’s greatest recruiting coup of the offseason further strengthening the Tiger’s embarrassment of riches along the defensive front. And here’s an interesting nugget – Russell was committed to Georgia’s 2014 recruiting class for 8 months before going on an official to Auburn for the Iron Bowl when the magical ‘Kick Six’ happened and that was all it took for Russell to flip the script and become a Tiger.

Auburn defensive tackle (5) Derrick Brown pile-drives UCF runningback Adrian Killins into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf

Derrick Brown, Junior, DT, (6-5, 325)

Likely no player on the Auburn defensive front seven has a brighter future in the eyes of NFL scouts than big Derrick Brown. According to NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper, Auburn has four legitimate NFL prospects on the defensive line with Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson, Dontavius Russell, headlined by big Derrick Brown, who Kiper says, “has rare, rare talent.” Kiper continued, “That is a phenomenal group. That to me is like what we talked about with Ohio State. Clemson is going to have an incredible defensive line returning with all those kids. Clemson and Auburn are going to rival each other in terms of great, great defensive lines.” But Kiper was beside himself when referring to the big-time junior, “Derrick Brown is an unbelievable talent,” he said. Athlon Sports says this about the junior defensive tackle: “A projected top-10 pick in 2019, Brown is expected to be a major force both rushing the passer and stopping the run.” A former five-star and the #1 recruit out of the state of Georgia for the 2016 class, Brown had a strong sophomore season when he totaled 57 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

Auburn defensive tackle Andrew Williams (79) pursues Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkens (22). (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP

Andrew Williams, RS Senior, DT, (6-4, 290)

If you’re a college football fan, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “plays with a high motor,” and if you’ve seen Andrew Williams on the gridiron then you already know that saying epitomizes the fifth-year senior’s game. The former 4-star from McDonough, Georgia plays with reckless abandon when he’s on the field, but typically has a smile on his face when he’s off of it. He’s one of those players who seems to have a positive attitude that resonates throughout the Auburn locker room. The top backup option on the interior, Williams was rated as the 12th best weakside defensive end in the country by the 247Sports composite, but he’s made his mark on the inside for the Tigers.





Interior Depth

Tyron Truesdell, Sophomore, Defensive Tackle, (6-2, 314)

Alec Jackson, Redshirt Freshman, Defensive Tackle, (6-5, 297)

Jaunta’vius Johnson, Redshirt Junior, Defensive Tackle, (6-2, 326)

*Daquan Newkirk, Sophomore, Defensive Tackle, (6-3, 306)

Gary Walker, Junior, Defensive Tackle, (6-0, 281)

Coynis Miller, True Freshman, Defensive Tackle, (6-1, 300)

*Injured/surgery in spring


‘College Football’s Best Front Seven’

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Defensive Tackles

Part 3: Defensive Ends

Thursday/Part 4: Bucks

Friday/Part 5: Linebackers