Derick Hall and Eku Leota: A tag team living on the EDGE
Auburn's top two pass-rushers did something that no duo has done on the Plains since the 2010 national title season. What does that mean for 2022?
EDGE Derick Hall (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Every great tag team needs a memorable name. And right now, Auburn football has a dynamic duo — Derick Hall and Eku Leota — still trying to figure out what to call themselves.
“We’re trying to come up with a name,” Leota said last month. “I feel like we’re going to have a lot of sacks this year between me and Derick. We’re trying to come up with a name for us.”
There was a lot that didn’t go right for Auburn in 2021, but Hall and Leota proved that it was a New Day for the Tigers’ pass rush. These Young Bucks formed a Legion of Doom for opposing quarterbacks, combining for 16 sacks last season.
Those 16 sacks were the most by a pair of Auburn teammates since 2010, when Nick Fairley and Antoine Carter combined for that exact amount. (They played one more game than the 2021 tandem, too.)
2010: 16 combined sacks for Nick Fairley and Antoine Carter
2011: 12.5 for Corey Lemonier and Eltoro Freeman
2012: 11.5 for Dee Ford and Lemonier
2013: 14.5 for Ford and Carl Lawson
2014: 7 for Kris Frost and Davonte Lambert
2015: 7.5 for Cassanova McKinzy and Montravius Adams
2016: 13.5 for Lawson and Adams
2017: 13.5 for Jeff Holland and Marlon Davidson
2018: 11.5 for Nick Coe and Derrick Brown
2019: 11.5 for Davidson and Brown
2020: 8 for Colby Wooden and Owen Pappoe (11-game season)
2021: 16 for Derick Hall and Eku Leota
(The program record in this category, for those curious, is 21 from Gary Walker and Mike Pelton in 1994.)
Auburn fans had been clamoring for more production from its edge rushers since Holland’s 10-sack season in 2017. And while neither Hall nor Leota hit double-digits, there was a real strength in numbers.
The switch to Derrick Mason’s versatile, multi-front defense paid off, as the more pro-style “edge” position group delivered in a big way. The pass rush almost singlehandedly gave Auburn a chance to upset Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Seven of Auburn’s 13 games featured at least three sacks, which was the most since the 2010 national championship season.
But the unnamed tag team wants everyone to know that this is just the beginning.
“I need double digits this year,” Leota said, referring to his sack total. “At least 10, 12. Hoping to break the record with Derick. Me and Derick, we’re hoping to break the record together this year.”
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