Gabe Wright

Auburn’s Gabe Wright expects to bounce between DT and DE

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While Auburn’s run to the national title game last season was spurred by the team’s innovative offense and overwhelming rushing attack, the Tigers’ defense was led by defensive tackle Gabe Wright. Wright proved to be one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the nation, but his role is expected to expand this fall.

Wright will start the season at defensive tackle, but he’ll also be expected to receive repetitions at defensive end.

Wright was forced to play defensive end during spring practice due to injuries along the defensive line, and the Tigers’ coaching staff came away  impressed with his play.

“(Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Gardner) actually wanted to put me in last year, but he just stated I wasn’t mentally ready,” Wright told al.com’s Brandon Marcello. “I respect and I don’t second-guess his decision. If I’m called upon, I will answer the call. There’s no doubt about that. It just shows his confidence in me.”

Wright also wasn’t physically ready to play defensive end last year. He’s down to 290 pounds with enough the athleticism to set the edge and rush the passer.

“I’ve been wanting to drop down body weight since I’ve been here — and body fat —  which has been done,” Wright said.

Wright’s versatility will provide insurance along the Tigers’ defensive line after losing Dee Ford to the NFL and Carl Lawson to a potential season-ending ACL injury. Wright’s ability to provide depth at defensive end also allows the ultra-talented Montravius Adams to gain more repetitions at defensive tackle.

While Wright remains one of the best interior defenders in college football, his biggest contribution this season may be his ability to play defensive end until Lawson is fully healthy or one of the Tigers’ young pass rushers are ready to take over the spot.

Has Auburn found someone better than Dee Ford?

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With Auburn’s spring game on tap for this coming weekend, have the defending SEC champions already found a replacement for Dee Ford, one of the top defensive players in the country last season? With Ford off to the NFL, Carl Lawson has stepped in to fill some big shoes this spring, and he is winning the respect of his teammates in the process.

“Carl’s a physical beast,” defensive tackle Gabe Wright said to Al.com. “Carl is definitely showing some traits on that left side, looking almost as good or better than Dee.”

Better than Dee?

Ford was named First-team All-SEC in 2013 who recorded 14.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks in helping to get Auburn to the BCS Championship Game. He finished the 2013 season second in the SEC in sacks per game despite missing the first two games of the season due to a left knee sprain. Can Lawson be better than that? He is certainly showing he has the work ethic to clear the bar. As a true freshman last season Lawson won playing time as the season progressed as he was named to multiple Freshman All-America lists at the end of the year. As good as he was, even Lawson believes he could have been better last season, and that thought should send fear down the spines of opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks in the fall.

“I feel like now that I have more of an understanding of what I’m doing, I can coach (the rest of the line) up,” Lawson said to Al.com. “The older guys, too, they coach me up as well. I guess there’s nobody in particular I lean on. We all lean on each other.”

Time will tell just how much of an impact Lawson has on the Auburn defense in 2014, but this Saturday could provide a glimpse of what is to come as the Tigers wrap up spring practices with the annual spring game.