The Best Front Seven in College Football (Part 3 of 5 Defensive Ends)

July 18, 2018 By Skye Underwood

Auburn returning defensive ends, Junior Marlon Davidson, and Redshirt Sophomore Nick Coe

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


Defensive Ends

Marlon Davidson (3) flies through the air to stop Georgia Southern RB Wesley Fields/Adam Broach

Marlon Davidson, Junior, DE, (6-3, 282)

Davidson was one of the top defensive prospects in the country coming out of high school in the 2016 class when Rivals rated him a five-star and the 25th best overall recruit in the nation regardless of position. The Greenville, Alabama native did not disappoint after becoming an early enrollee, which enabled him to learn the nuances and speed of the college game during Auburn’s 2016 spring practice while most of his friends were still finishing up their senior years at Greenville High School. All Davidson did in his very first spring training was show up and show out, impressing the entire Auburn coaching staff as well as his fellow teammates. That spring saw Davidson explode up the depth-chart supplanting the former #1 overall recruit in the country Byron Cowart as Auburn’s starting defensive end and becoming the first Auburn true freshman to start the opening game on the defensive line in 30 years. The junior battled a few nagging injuries last season, but was still a model of consistency after racking up 42 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Lindy’s ranks Davidson as the No. 6 best defensive end in the country with this tidbit: “High-motor, versatile lineman should be first-round material in 2019.” Davidson is a three-year starter and I expect him to spend most of his 2018 season camping out in opponent’s backfields.


Auburn defensive lineman Nick Coe (91) celebrates after sacking Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) during the NCAA football game between Auburn and Clemson on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Clemson N.C./USA Today

Nick Coe, RS Sophomore, DE, (6-5, 285)

Perhaps no player on the entire team has as high of a ceiling as Nick Coe, who has evolved into an absolute freak of nature after a couple years in Auburn’s strength & conditioning program. However, Coe’s rise to national recognition hasn’t necessarily come as a surprise to the Auburn coaching staff and fanbase. After all, he was his own freak of nature in high school after winning not one, not two, but three NHSCA national championships as the country’s #1 high school wrestler in the 285-pound division. Needless to say, Coe’s excellence in wrestling has translated beautifully to the gridiron after being named to the 2017 freshmen ALL-SEC team. Coe displays fantastic short-burst speed coming off the line of scrimmage, fluidity and bend in his muscular frame charging off the edge, and just the overall girth of the young specimen allows him to lineup anywhere along the Tiger front four, so it’s not really fair to label him as an outside guy, though that’ll eventually be where he makes his mark in the NFL. I expect a monster season from this beast, so with an injury free year, Coe will absolutely crush his numbers from 2017 when he collected 29 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks as a redshirt freshman. However, he saved his best game for Auburn’s biggest – Coe racked up five tackles, including one sack, and had a quarterback hurry in Auburn’s 26-14 victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl earning himself the distinction of being named “SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.” Coe picked up where he left off in 2018 spring practice and then again for the A-Day game when he was named “Defensive MVP” after registering two tackles for loss with one resulting in a safety, and he had a sack. After the game Coe summed up the spring for Auburn’s defense – “We’ve been dominating the whole spring; focusing, eyes, ears, tackling, physicality.”


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