3:30pm ET | CBS
Auburn’s defense is loaded with talented players like Derrick Brown, Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson, Dontavius Russell, Daniel Thomas, Jamel Dean, and Javaris Davis, but the glue of the unit that keeps everything together and juices everyone up is the unanimous team captain and middle linebacker Deshaun Davis.
While he might not fit the height/weight/speed thresholds for some NFL teams, if there is anyone in the country that can defy the odds and be the exception it is Deshaun Davis. Every high school and college coach of his that we have talked to say he is the toughest, most instinctual player they have ever been around, and it does not take long watching his film to notice this.
It is evident on tape that Davis has played the linebacker position his entire life. He has already acquired many subtle tricks in his maneuverability around the box and timing of his blitzes that you would only expect to see out of veteran NFL players.
A lost art for many linebackers in college football and the NFL today is the ability to take on lead blockers with force. Davis has all the physical toughness and pop in his pads that you need to thwart fullbacks coming through the hole and offensive linemen working to the second level.
An effective short zone coverage player and a reliable tackler, Davis a player that NFL linebackers coaches will fight for to make a roster.
One player tasked with blocking Davis on Saturday will be Alabama center Ross Pierschbacher. Over the summer, we were admittedly lukewarm on his film as a guard and thought he struggled against powerful players who lined up over him.
This season as a center, however, Pierschbacher has impressed us with his alertness and competitiveness. He has become very adept at giving help to his guards and is effective working to the second level with good angles on combo blocks.
At the end of the day, Pierschbacher is a four-year starter and key cog for Alabama who has position flexibility in the interior of the offensive line. Bradley Bozeman was a 6thround pick in the 2018 NFL draft who ended up making the Baltimore Ravens’ 53-man roster and we see a lot of similarities between the two.
While many will overlook Davis and Pierschbacher when it comes to NFL potential, they have the experience, toughness, competitiveness, and football intelligence to make it in the league. We are excited to watch them matchup against each other use their subtle abilities that have made them outstanding SEC football players.
Mississippi State CB Jamal Peters vs. Ole Miss WR DaMarkus Lodge
Peters has battled back from an early-season injury to showcase his upside as a press-man outside corner. He’ll look for his first interception this season against the ball skills of Lodge.
Kentucky CBs Lonnie Johnson, Derrick Baity vs. Louisville WR Jaylen Smith
Smith gets a rare challenge this week to face cornerbacks that can matchup with him from a size and length perspective, so we will be keyed in on his reps against Johnson and Baity.
South Carolina CB Rashad Fenton vs. Clemson WR Hunter Renfrow
If the sure-handed Renfrow is cleared to play, he will get a good matchup with a twitchy, quick-footed nickel cornerback in Fenton.
Syracuse DT Chris Slayton vs. Boston College OG Chris Lindstrom
Slayton has shown flashes as a disruptive interior presence and will get his toughest test of the season against the extremely consistent Lindstrom.
Florida OG Fred Johnson vs. Florida State DT Demarcus Christmas
Big on big matchup in the trenches between two strong players who excel in the run game on their respective sides of the ball.
Notre Dame RB Dexter Williams vs. USC FS Marvell Tell
Tell is a rangy, versatile safety who will have some intriguing one on one tackle opportunities with Williams whose vision, body control, and contact balance has led to a very productive senior season.
-- Jim Nagy, Reese's Senior Bowl Executive Director