Brown looks to be a top five pick in April’s NFL Draft. He was recently named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He is a finalist for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Wuerffel, Outland, and Lott Impact awards. Brown recorded a season-high 3.5 tackles-for-loss in Auburn’s 48-45 Iron Bowl win vs. Alabama, giving him 12.5 for the season.
“Derrick is one of the best all-around football players in the entire country. Any position,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “It’s not a coincidence he’s up for a lot of these awards. I expect him to win quite a few of them. He’s a real special player. He’s had an unbelievable year. He’s played his best football in the biggest games when they matter the most. That’s the sign of a great player.”
Senior DE Marlon Davidson (6-3/278)
Davidson led Auburn with 7.5 sacks, tying Brown for the team lead with 12.5 tackles-for-loss . Davidson and Brown, combined, have won the SEC Defensive Player of the Week award seven times, with Davidson leading 4-3 heading into the Outback Bowl. The individual competition has brought out the best in both, helping Auburn’s defense allow only 16.2 points per game.
*Junior MLB Kenny Britt (6-0/228)
“K.J. is a born leader,” linebackers coach Travis Williams says of Britt. “When he talks, people listen.” After a freshman year that saw the former 4-star prospect record only four tackles, the junior middle linebacker is now a key piece in Kevin Steele’s defensive. Britt finished 2019 third on the team with 61 total tackles and nine tackles-for-loss.
Senior SS Daniel Thomas (5-11/208)
Coming out of high school, Thomas really wanted to sign with Auburn, but didn’t have an offer. He was prepared to go to Minnesota. However, before he signed, he went to church and spoke with his pastor. He spoke to his pastor, Michael Crook, who asked him what he wanted. Thomas told him “I want to go to Auburn.” Crook stopped that night’s service and asked the entire congregation to pray for Thomas. “He told him, ‘You’re going to hear from them, and you’re going to have your offer,’” Daniel Thomas’ mother, Regina Thomas, told the Montgomery Advertiser. “And that’s just the way it happened.”
Forty-two games later, Thomas has racked up 193 total tackles, five interceptions, and caused three forced fumbles.
Senior FS Jeremiah Dinson (6-0/195)
After this sophomore season, Jeremiah Dinson made a move from nickel to free safety. He made that position his own last season and emerged as the cerebral leader of the secondary. Dinson considered declaring early for the NFL after last season, but he ultimately decided to return after leaning on input from his parents and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Anchoring the Tigers secondary, Dinson led the team with 79 tackles. He also added two interceptions and two sacks.
Senior CB Javaris Davis (5-10/187)
Javaris Davis also contemplated leaving for the NFL after his junior season, but decided to return to Auburn and enhance his draft stock. As a junior, he recorded 41 tackles (three for loss), a sack and two interceptions. He also defended eight passes. His 2018 numbers just about mirror those he posted this season. As a senior, Davis has 41 tackles on the year, along with six passes defended.
Senior LT Prince Tega Wanogho (6-7/307)
Wanogho, a three-year starter at left tackle, has anchored Auburn’s offensive line, helping the Tigers score 50-plus points in three games this season. Originally from Nigeria, Wanogho came to the States to play basketball. He quickly transitioned to football, and has been growing in the game ever since. Wanogho credits his basketball background for his smooth footwork at left tackle.
“With speed, I’ve always said that I’m quick to recover. I have the feet for that. I’m also strong enough to handle any bull rush anyone can throw at me. I’m strong enough to fend that off. I can get into my stance and handle that,” Wanogho told Draft Wire in an exclusive interview. “Going back to my soccer and basketball days, I’ve been good with my feet my whole life. I’ve always been a natural in this department.”
Coach: P.J. Fleck
Minnesota Players to watch:
**Sophomore WR Rashod Bateman (6-2/200)
Sophomore receiver Rashod Bateman who was named the Big Ten’s Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year. Bateman, who was also one of 12 semifinalists for he Biletnikoff Award, has 57 catches this year for 1,170 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 1,170 yards is a single-season school record, eclipsing the previous record set by Johnson last season with 1,169 yards. His 11 touchdowns is one shy of the record 12 set by Johnson last season.
Senior WR Tyler Johnson (6-2/200)
Johnson, who is the lone receiver from a Power Five conference to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, has 74 catches this year for 1,114 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 74 catches and 1,114 yards are school records for a senior and rank third and fourth, respectively in the Minnesota record book. He is one touchdown shy of tying the record he set last season with 12.
**Sophomore QB Tanner Morgan (6-2/210)
Morgan is the first Minnesota quarterback to be on a Big Ten postseason team since the coaches voted Adam Weber All-Big Ten Second Team in 2008. Morgan has had one of the best seasons in school history for a Minnesota quarterback ever. He has set single-season records in passing yards (2,975), touchdowns (28) and consecutive games with a touchdown pass (13, dating back to last season).
Senior RB Rodney Smith (5-11/210)
Smith has rushed for 1,094 yards this year and eight touchdowns this year and rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight Big Ten games to start conference play. He is only the second running back ever to rush for more than 4,000 career yards and is the school record holder with 5,364 all-purpose yards.
**Sophomore OL Blaise Andries (6-5/313)
Blaise Andries, who has started games at left tackle, left guard and right tackle this year, was named All-Big Ten Third Team to become the first Gopher offensive lineman to be honored by the conference since 2016. Andries, who has started every game, has blocked for a prolific Minnesota offense this year. The Gophers have thrown for a school record 3,014 yards and 28 touchdowns this year, while still rushing for 2,108 yards and 24 touchdowns.
**Sophomore S Antoine Winfield (5-10/204)
Defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. was named the Big Ten Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year, becoming the first Gopher to ever receive the honor. Winfield, who is also one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, was also named All-Big Ten First Team by both the coaches and media.
Winfield leads the team with 83 tackles, which includes 58 solo stops. He also has 3.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks this year to go along with seven interceptions and two forced fumbles. Winfield’s seven interceptions tied a school single-season record and also rank fourth in the NCAA this year.
Senior DE Carter Coughlin (6-5/245)
Rush end Carter Coughlin was named All-Big Ten Second Team by both the coaches and media. Coughlin was also named All-Big Ten Second Team in 2018 by the coaches and media.