BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s pass-rushing was already a concern heading into the 2013 season. Dee Ford’s uncertain status going forward won’t help matters.
Head coach Gus Malzahn confirmed Ford, the Tigers’ starting left defensive end, did not participate in Thursday morning’s practice.
“We feel like it shouldn’t be too long to get him back on the field,” he said.
However, Malzahn seemed to backtrack on the severity of the unspecified injury later. When asked whether the ailment could prevent him from playing in Auburn’s opening game against Washington State on Aug. 31, Malzahn appeared unsure.
“I would definitely hope not,” he said.
Ford’s loss for any period of time would be a big blow to Auburn’s defense. Of the 22 sacks the Tigers tallied last season, Ford accounted for a team-best six of them. No other returnee has more than one.
With Ford out for now, Malzahn said the defensive line’s newcomers have had a chance to make their case for playing time.
“We gave those young guys and new guys probably more opportunities than anybody in the country,” Malzahn said. “We’re gathering a lot of information on all of our guys.”
Malzahn refused to name any lineman who has caught his eye thus far.
“(Defensive line) Coach (Rodney) Garner has been mixing and matching,” he said. “They’ve all got a chance.”
But veterans such as Craig Sanders, Nosa Eguae and Kenneth Carter will have their fair shot as well.
“We’ve got some seniors that have some experience and that’s always very important,” he said. “We’ve got some guys that I think are versatile, that can move around.”
Even with Ford’s injury and another one that has hybrid safety/linebacker Justin Garrett sidelined, Malzahn has been pleased with the team’s physicality during fall camp.
“We’re a little banged up but not a bad banged up,” he said. “I think we’ve been working very hard on getting our edge back and being physical. That was part of the plan.”