How Auburn plans to create havoc with a new-look pass rush in 2023
The Tigers are having to rebuild after losing most of their top pass rushers to the NFL. But Ron Roberts and Jeremy Garrett are ready for it.
DT Marcus Harris (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
New Auburn defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett likes to tell his players that everybody can’t be Myles Garrett.
He would know. No, it’s not because he’s related to the superstar defensive end from Texas A&M. It’s because he helped coach him.
“It's understanding what you're really good at — and let's get really good at that,” Jeremy Garrett said Thursday.
Chances are, you’re not a former 5-star freak athlete who will go on to be a No. 1 overall pick and four-time All-Pro (and counting) edge rusher. Garrett has inherited some blue-chip talent in his room at Auburn, but it’s not exactly that caliber.
But Garrett knows you don’t have to be the best of the best in order to produce at an extremely high level. Because, after two years of working as a defensive line assistant with the Cleveland Browns, Garrett spent last year at Liberty under Hugh Freeze.
In 2022, Liberty’s defense compiled 45 sacks — which ranked No. 3 in the country behind only Louisville and Pittsburgh. The Flames’ pass rush didn’t just beat up on overmatched teams, either. Liberty averaged 4.33 sacks in three matchups against Power 5 opponents, a higher average than it did against non-P5 teams.
And, of those 45 sacks, 31 of them came from players who were listed on the roster as defensive linemen.
What was the key to Liberty’s success in that area? According to Garrett, it was the understanding that not everybody is an unstoppable, all-around sack-master like his former pupil in Cleveland or Aaron Donald.
“I know the guys at Liberty bought into that: 'Here's my role as a rusher, and here's what I'm really good at. I'm a power rusher, I'm going to perfect that,'“ Garrett said. “And together, we perfect our individual crafts as a unit. Then we come together, and we were able to put that product on the field.”
Garrett says he sticks to three core tenants with his linemen: Play fast, play physical and play together. The first two are self-explanatory, but the third one might not be as easy to grasp when it comes to the defensive front.
“That together part is for us in the run — stopping the run and earning the right to rush the passer,” Garrett said. “That together part also is, as pass-rushers, we have to rush as one. So, you can't be four independent guys or three independent guys out there doing your own thing. You've got to be three or four guys understanding the protection, the slide protection, rushing together and knowing your role.”
And at Auburn, Garrett is practically going to be building a pass rush from scratch with defensive coordinator Ron Roberts.
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