By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — They anointed him the leader of this year's defense before last season was even done. Now, linebacker Tre' Williams says he's ready to take on that leadership role as a new season approaches.
Auburn began spring football practice Tuesday with a new defensive coordinator, in search of starting linebackers and in need of players to replace the likes of linebackers Kris Frost, Justin Garrett and Cassanova McKinzy.
Williams says he's ready to step in.
"I pictured myself one day being the leader for the defense of the Auburn Tigers and I'm there now. So now I've got to take the responsibility," Williams said.
A flashback and some perspective: Frost said at the end of last season that Williams was "ready now" to be a leader.
"He’s done a great job of not only being a leader, but also playing multiple positions," Frost said. "He’s always in good position when he plays and he’s going to be a great one to come for two more years or one more year, however long he’s going to be here. I’ll be watching."
Garrett said Williams "puts a lot of accountability on himself and he wants to push everybody, and guys respond to him, and guys appreciate guys like him because he works hard every day."
Williams said he's learned about leadership.
"I watched them do it," Williams said. "Growing up, I watched a lot of great linebackers do it. They took ownership not only of the defense, but they also had part of the team. And that's just the responsibility that I'm trying to take at Auburn."
Williams is a junior on the roster and the most experienced player in the linebacker corps. He had 55 tackles last season. Williams says Auburn defenders have "a chip on their shoulders" because of last year's record.
"Their chip might be bigger than mine, because they're trying to get on the field, also," Williams said. "It's my responsibility to lead them in the right direction. We're going to try to be a great defense and it starts with everybody."
There's a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Steele, but much of the schemes have remained the same as last year's defense under Will Muschamp. Williams' early impressions of Steele?
"He's calm and collected at times and he's a hard coach at times," Williams said. "And that's what we really need. Sometimes you do something wrong and he yells at you, but at the end of the day you know he loves you so that's a good thing."
Williams has a new position coach as well in 33-year-old Travis Williams.
"We've got somebody that we can really relate to," Tre' Williams said. "He was in our shoes, well, a long time ago, but still he was in our shoes. He knows what it takes and we're just following him right now."
As Auburn's defense moves on.
"If we think about last year, we might carry over some qualities," Williams said. "We're trying to brush all that off, let that go and try to build something new on ourselves."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine