When Auburn hired Gus Malzahn, it seemed to be a signal that the Tigers were looking to return to the offensively driven, high-scoring approach that propelled them to the 2010 national title. But if Signing Day 2013 is any indication, the Tigers might be capable of putting together a defense worthy of an SEC challenger, too.
Thanks in no small part to the efforts of new Tigers defensive line coach Rodney Garner -- an Auburn graduate hired away from Georgia after several years under Mark Richt in Athens -- the Tigers added a pair of five-star defensive linemen Wednesday, flipping Avon, Ind., end Elijah Daniel from Ole Miss and signing tackle Montravius Adams out of Vienna, Ga.
The Tigers also got a signature from five-star defensive end Carl Lawson, a commitment to Gene Chizik's staff who'd recently announced he was staying with Auburn despite a push from Tennessee. In Adams, Lawson and Daniel, Garner will go on to coach the Nos. 10, 24 and 27 players overall in the class of 2013. Assuming No. 2 overall player and five-star DE Chris Jones sticks with his Mississippi State commitment rather than switching to Ole Miss, Garner and the Tigers will boast the top defensive line class in the country.
Elsewhere along the defense, Signing Day has been less successful for the Tigers -- four-star, top-50 cornerback MacKensie Alexander picked Clemson despite his three-star brother Mackenro signing with Auburn, and the Tigers were unable to re-reconvince five-star linebacker Reuben Foster to leave Alabama for the Plains.
But Malzahn won't complain too loudly. That 2010 team also had its occasional issues in the back seven, but made up for it -- most notably in the BCS championship game -- with the SEC's top rush defense and the wrecking ball penetration of Nick Fairley. If the combination of Garner and these three five-stars can produce similar results, Auburn could put its 2012 disaster behind them even quicker than expected.