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Auburn ‘deficient in true pass-rushers,’ but a freshman has Hugh Freeze’s attention 3/21/2023 Tom Green,

Derick Hall will be back on the field of Auburn’s indoor practice facility on Tuesday, but unfortunately for Hugh Freeze, it will only be for the Tigers’ pro day.

As Auburn’s third week of spring practice got underway Monday, Freeze yearned for the opportunity to have a guy like Hall coming off the edge for the Tigers this spring. Hall was a two-time All-SEC selection on the Plains and was one of the league’s most productive pass-rushers the last two seasons, totaling 15.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.

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His presence has been sorely missed for Auburn this spring at its Jack position, which Freeze said Monday is still a work in progress as the Tigers try to replace Hall and fellow edge Eku Leota.

“We need to recruit more,” Freeze said of the position. “We’re not where we need to be in rushing the passer. We certainly will improve our guys, but we’ve got to get better at that spot, for sure. At all spots, but we’ve got to get better. We’re deficient in true pass-rushers currently.”

Auburn returns just one scholarship player at that position from last season’s team: 2021 signee Dylan Brooks, who redshirted in 2021 before appearing in nine games as a reserve last season, totaling just six tackles and a sack across those appearances. The Tigers tried to address their needs off the edge with the 2023 class and the transfer portal, adding three more players to the Jack room.

Auburn landed veteran Vanderbilt transfer Elijah McAllister, who spent five years with the Commodores and was a two-time captain for the program. He played in 36 games and made 12 starts at Vanderbilt, where he totaled 63 career tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a defensive touchdown.

“Elijah has given us great reps,” Freeze said. “He’s a heck of a teammate and leader, and (he) understands the game and is decent at it, but you sure would like to have a Derick Hall, you know?... Somebody like that.”

The Tigers’ other two additions to the position were in the 2023 class: three-star Opelika product Brenton Williams and four-star Highland Home standout Keldric Faulk, who was the highest-rated signee in Auburn’s first recruiting class under Freeze. Faulk was a key addition on early signing day, and the 6-foot-6, 275-pound early enrollee already looks the part of an SEC edge-rusher from a physical standpoint.

“He’s what they’re supposed to look like,” Freeze said.

The first-year coach believes Faulk, the No. 74 player in the country and a top-10 recruit at his position, will see the field early at Auburn despite just coming off a wrist injury earlier this year and has what it takes to be a “phenomenal” player in the SEC. It’s not just that Faulk has the skillset and size to play right away; the Tigers need him to contribute immediately at Jack.

“He’s going to catch up fast,” Freeze said. “He’s just got to learn now. You’re asking him to do a lot. That position on our defense does a lot. So, it’s a big learning curve. It’s great he’s here this spring to get these 15 practices so that he goes into the summer with a better understanding. But we’re excited about the future for him.”

Even with Faulk expected to contribute right away, Freeze reiterated the need for Auburn to add more depth to the position, as the Tigers will actively try to bring in another transfer during the post-spring portal window.

“We’ve got to get some more of those guys,” Freeze said.

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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