Auburn heads into the 2012 season looking for better production defensively, and the Tiger coaching staff has brought in the type of players in the past few recruiting classes that are capable of competing at a high level in the SEC.
There is always at least one, if not more, players who come out of nowhere and make a big impact on the season every year. A great example would be Nick Fairley, who jumped onto the scene in a big way in 2010, winning the Lombari Award and playing a big role in Auburn's BCS national championship.
If Auburn is to compete for championships in the near future, the Tigers will need all the depth possible, particularly along the all-important defensive line.
Over the next few days we will be making a list of the most underrated youngsters at each position beginning today with the defensive line.
Justin Delaine (6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Sophomore)
Delaine was signed to Auburn as a big-bodied athlete with potential to get bigger, and become a force up front defensively.
The Linden (Ala.) product was very raw when he stepped on Auburn's campus for the first time, but has shown signs of being able to contribute. Delaine has great athleticism blended with great size, and a long, and lanky frame.
Once Delaine learns how to use that frame, he should be able to make some plays for the Tigers going forward. Delaine is very light on his feet to be so big, but doesn't distribute his balance evenly enough, or consistently enough to maintain a strong pass rushing position.
If Delaine can improve his power, along with his balance, Auburn could have a diamond in the rough waiting off the edge.
Keymiya Harrell (6-foot-4, 260 pounds, RS Freshman)
Harrell showed vast improvement after sitting his first season on the plains by way of a redshirt. One of Harrell's biggest problems early on as a true freshman was his ability to attack the blocker, then shed the blocker, and then go make the tackle.
Once Harrell improved his technique, and finally started using his hands to help him, good things began happening.
Auburn still needs more depth up front on defense, especially with rival teams like Alabama and LSU deploying smash mouth offenses.
If Harrell can keep on progressing at his current rate, he should become a very effective hybrid-type defensive lineman.
Jabrian Niles (6-foot-2, 297 pounds, RS Freshman)
Niles did some good things this past spring, even earning mention from defensive line coach Mike Pelton.
However, the redshirt freshman still has a long way to go to become a complete player.
The Mobile (Ala.) product is great at attacking a gap, and then re-directing in the backfield to make a play. His problem at Auburn so far has been getting able to get through that gap to go make the play.
Once Niles gets into position to tackle a ball carrier, he is great at finishing plays. Another dimension Niles brings on the inside, is an above average ability to rush the passer.
Having an inside pass rusher that can create havoc on second, and third and long is a deadly weapon. Look for Niles continue being brought along slowly, but don't be surprised if he gets a few looks this fall.
Tyler Nero (6-foot-2, 290 pounds, Freshman)
Nero is a very mature inside defensive lineman with great character, and uses his hands at the point of attack like an SEC veteran.
Watching Nero is exciting because he is quick, and extremely agile off the ball. Nero has incredible instincts, which make him a very consistent tackler, and a constant threat to force fumbles.
Another great thing about Nero's game is his effort, and it shows in his game tape. There is nothing an offensive lineman hates more than a big guy that never quits.
Gimel President (6-foot-3, 240 pounds, Freshman)
President is a very underrated prospect who will to Auburn this fall, and his offer list coming out of high school shows it. Nearly every recruiter that saw President play last year in high school, saw massive potential due to his athleticism.
President can disrupt the passer, make tackles for loss, and do just nearly everything from multiple positions. The only thing holding President back from being a major blue-chip prospect is his size. President's frame doesn't look to be able to carry much more weight, but he knows how to use what he already has.
Another positive about President is his knowledge of the game, and he should be close to big enough to hold his own against SEC offensive linemen, which is all a player with his talent ceiling needs.