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Oct 19, 2017
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  Football Preview: Defensive Backs

The 2016 version of Auburn's secondary promises to have a fresh look with the addition of an established coach and plenty of experience with several key players returning from last year's group.

Wesley McGriff was hired as secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator by head coach Gus Malzahn after Kevin Steele was brought on board to run the defense. McGriff spent the last three seasons as the secondary coach for the Saints.

McGriff has plenty of coaching experience in the Southeastern Conference with stints at Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. He was Ole Miss' co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach in 2012 and was a defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Vanderbilt in 2011.

Despite allowing 222.5 passing yards per game in 2015, the Tigers are confident that number will improve in the fall with the return of Rudy Ford, along with cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean, and Tray Matthews.

Ford, who led Auburn with 118 tackles last season, is expected to start at Nickel and play some deep safety when needed. Ford's backup is Tim Irvin. As a true freshman last season, Irvin made 18 tackles in 10 games.

Last year, Davis appeared in all 13 games, making nine starts. His 56 tackles with three interceptions and eight pass breakups as a true freshman earned him SEC All-Freshman team honors.

Dean should win the starting job across the field from Davis after transferring from Ohio State a year ago.

Matthews, who had 46 tackles with two interceptions while starting seven games last season, is the frontrunner to start at strong safety. Matthews missed all of spring practice while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Mathews' backup will likely be Stephen Roberts. Roberts saw the field in Auburn's final five games and finished the season with 26 tackles and three pass breakups.

At free safety, Nick Ruffin spent much of spring practice working with the first-team defense. He probably has a slight edge to start over Josh Holsey since Holsey is coming off a torn ACL last season.

Phil Marion

Coming August 29: Special Teams

Newcomers

Quarterbacks and Receivers

Running Backs and Offensive Line

Defensive Line

Linebackers

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