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December 31, 2012

Lemonier leaves

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AUBURN -- Junior end Corey Lemonier has elected to forgo his senior season and instead turn pro.

The Florida native finished his junior season with 34 tackles including 5.5 sacks. Lemonier's acceleration off the edge made him a valuable pass rusher since debuting in 2010 and apparently will tempt NFL teams during the 2013 NFL Draft.

"This was a very difficult decision for me," Lemonier said. "I prayed a lot and felt this was the best for me to pursue this opportunity. I loved every minute of my time at Auburn and I'm very appreciative of my teammates, coaches and the entire Auburn family.

"It is sad to leave such a special place like Auburn, but ultimately I made a decision that was best for me and my family."

One website, NFLDraftScout.com, has Lemonier projected as the No. 4 end in the entire draft. ESPN analyst Todd McShay postulated earlier this month that Lemonier could make his way into the first round with strong pre-draft performances.

Still, Lemonier's 6-foot-3 frame may force some teams to consider him as a linebacker/end hybrid - much like Marcus Washington during the early 2000s. Being viewed as a "tweener" could limit the number of teams who value Lemonier highly.

New Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson privately hoped Lemonier would choose to stay. Johnson's 4-2-5 set will give someone with size and speed an opportunity to emerge as a designated pass-rush threat.

Thriving in that role could have assuaged some concerns created by a mediocre second half of 2012. With that said, Lemonier apparently hasn't retained the services of an agent to this point and may preserve his amateur status -- for now.

He played in 34 career games, making 24 starts. Lemonier's college career with 98 tackles, 17 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and 33 quarterback hurries. His 17.0 sacks are tied for seventh on the school's career list.



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