On Monday, the SEC recognized Auburn’s Derick Hall as the conference’s defensive lineman of the week, the first award of his career.
Hall has been a relative fixture in Auburn’s defense since signing with the Tigers as part of the 2019 recruiting class. As a true freshman, he appeared in 11 games. With three open starting spots on the defensive line coming into 2020, many expected Hall’s prior experience to help him earn one of them. By the end of fall camp, he won the starting job at the buck spot, a hybrid defensive lineman/outside linebacker position that changes based on the behavior of opposing offenses.
On Saturday, Hall made his first career sack. In fact, he made two of them.
The first sack came after the Tigers crossed into Auburn territory late in the first quarter. Hall came off the edge and drove LSU quarterback TJ Finley out of the pocket before running him down for a four yard loss. It was a big moment for the sophomore. But clearly, just one wasn’t enough.
In the second quarter, Finley got tangled up as the pocket collapsed around him. Hall stripped the ball while bringing Finley down, allowing Christian Tutt to fly in from downfield for the scoop-and-score.
Hall finished the game with a total of four tackles to go with his two sacks and the forced fumble, easily his best performance of the season
Gus Malzahn has been prioritizing the development of Auburn’s front four this season. Only one of the starters, Big Kat Bryant, had significant starting experience coming into the year. Auburn held LSU to just 32 rushing yards across the board, a season best and the fewest allowed since holding Arkansas to 25 rushing yards back in 2016. Along with pressuring the quarterback, Hall was a major contributor in shutting down the run.
“Their offensive line is very solid,” Malzahn said of LSU, “For us to do it against them says a lot and I think we can continue that.”
Prior to Saturday, the Bayou Bengals were averaging 141.5 yards per game on the ground. With TJ Finley making his first start on the road, it made sense that LSU would lean on experience to generate some offense. Derick Hall and the Auburn defense stopped them cold, forcing Finley into costly freshman mistakes that would turn into 21 Auburn points.
Now, with six SEC games in six weeks now in the rearview, Hall and the Tigers get to rest up. “Our bodies are talking to us,” Malzahn said, eager to have his team recover before the four-game stretch to close out the season.
The Tigers return to the field on November 14th at Mississippi State.