ATLANTA, GA. (WSFA) - A strong point of Auburn's football team last season was the defense. As Auburn has transitioned from now South Carolina head coach to current Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, the defense has improved and been dominant in each of the last three seasons.
In 2015, the Auburn defense gave up an average of points per game. In 2016 that number lowered to 17.1 ppg, and in 2017? Just 18.5 ppg after playing 14 games.
Steele took over as defensive coordinator in 2016 and the Tiger defense, more specifically the defensive line, reached new levels. So the question asked Thursday was this: Is Auburn's defensive line overlooked?
"No, I don't think so. I feel like we get enough recognition as it is. I feel like being acknowledged as underrated is acknowledgement enough," said Auburn senior defensive lineman Dontavious Russell.
Russell may not think the d-line is overlooked but his head coach certainly thinks that he is.
"Yeah Dotnavious is definitely overlooked there's no doubt about that," said Auburn head football coach Gus Malzahn.
"I think there's a very high likelihood that Dontavius Russell will be in the NFL. I think it's really hard to think of a guy in this league that has started for four years. He's got a chance to do that this year. He's a guy that's been very consistent. Very unselfish. He'll take on double teams to open somebody else up. He's very good against the run. He's very good pass rushing when he gets on one-on-one situations. And he's -- what I call him is Mr. Consistency. And we're proud to have him," said Malzahn.
"I'm always going to give it my all, but that's exactly how I feel. You don't have to worry about the situation where it's coming out of the game because of the caliber of talent we have. We can rotate down and in and down and out, and not have to worry about it. We are in a good spot," said Russell.
When it comes to the overall defense, senior linebacker Deshaun Davis says it's just a matter of showing up on gameday.
"We know we can be pretty good. We don't know if we will be worse than last year's defense or if we will be better. Cause right now, it is all paper talk. No matter if they say we are going to be good or we are going to be bad, at the end of the day when it comes down to it, we have to step on the field and make plays," Davis said.
Russell and the potentially "overlooked" Auburn defensive line will look to put their critics on alert when the Auburn Tigers open their season against the Washington Huskies Sept. 1 at 2:30 p.m. in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.