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Matchup to watch: Battle of NFL prospects in the trenches for UW, Auburn

FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2017, file photo, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) looks to throw a pass as Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown (5) pressures during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Auburn and Georgia meet Nov. 10 in a rematch from last year’s SEC title game. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2017, file photo, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) looks to throw a pass as Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown (5) pressures during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta. Auburn and Georgia meet Nov. 10 in a rematch from last year’s SEC title game. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) AP

Jake Browning would like those in SEC country and around Auburn football to know something specific about this University of Washington football team’s offense. A little nugget for them.

“For those Auburn fans listening,” the UW senior quarterback said, “I think we’re going to run the triple-option every play.”

Psych!

No, that’s just how close to the vest the Huskies are keeping things this weekend. Especially with an upcoming challenge for their offense like this one against one of the best defensive front seven in the country.

Yeah, no way the Huskies are running triple-option against an Auburn defensive line that features a likely first-round NFL draft pick, a four-year starter and someone called Big Kat.

Looking for a matchup to watch in that 12:30 p.m. Saturday top-10 showdown between UW and Auburn in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium? How about the Huskies’ offensive line against that Tigers’ defensive front?

The good news for UW is that it’s O-line is just as experienced as Auburn’s D-line, especially with 6-foot-8 four-year starter Trey Adams listed as their starting left tackle on UW’s depth chart with Adams coming off of a torn ACL that ended his season a year ago (though, those depth charts can certainly change).

But if Adams is ready to go, then UW’s got a likely NFL first-round pick to counter the one from Auburn, 6-foot-5, 325-pound junior Derrick Brown.

Then UW has 6-foot-8 Kaleb McGary at right tackle, Auburn has four-year starter Dontavius Russell at defensive tackle.

Adams and McGary would mostly, though, be in charge of handling these Auburn pass rushers in sophomore Nick Coe and junior Marlon Davidson. Combine them with senior linebackers Darrell Williams, Deshaun Davis and Montavious Atkinson and that’s why UW coach Chris Petersen was saying this Auburn defense is “Alabama-ish” – the best defense he’s ever faced.

“Everybody wants to talk about Jake (Browning) but that’s the last guy I want to talk about because it starts with the line,” Petersen said earlier this week.

“That front seven for Auburn is super athletic. If we don’t let him get a chance to set his feet or get the run game going no one is going to have a chance. They have some guys who have played a lot of football on that defensive side and they are very stout and physical.”

Normally Browning said he doesn’t even pay attention to an opposing team’s defensive line during film study. He couldn’t help but notice Auburn’s.

“Their front seven play very physical,” Browning said. “And they got some experience in the back end. Across the board they are pretty physical and play hard – kind of like our defense. They’ve been good for a long time.”

And Auburn has big edge rushers to bring off their bench in T.D. Moultry and Big Kat Bryant, a reigning SEC all-freshman member.

UW’s secondary

As physical and deep as Auburn is in their front seven, that’s how talented UW’s defense is in the secondary.

Senior Jordan Miller is back from his season-ending ankle injury he suffered last year as the senior at one cornerback spot, and he’s got sophomore Byron Murphy on the other side with breakout former walk-on Myles Bryant slated at the nickleback corner … with Austin Joyner and Elijah Molden behind them.

At safety, junior Taylor Rapp and senior JoJo McIntosh are back, with Bellevue graduate Isaiah Gilchrist listed behind them.

And just about all those UW starters in the secondary could be seeing their names called in the NFL draft next spring.

The Huskies will need all of that against this Auburn quarterback, Jarrett Stidham, who is considered among the top quarterback prospects in next year’s draft.

“This is an explosive offense,” UW defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “They set up everything with the run and they have really good backs and they block really well. So first of all if you don’t tackle the backs, they are explosive, and then if you load everybody up then they got a top 3-5-ranked quarterback who can load up over the top. They got really fast receivers who can run downfield. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge.”

That’s why it’ll be broadcast on national television, probably.

“It’s going to be a great game,” Murphy said. “Our defense is hyped up for this one.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill
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