April 10, 2014
Junior college transfer Derrick Moncrief is making a big move at safety (Phillip Marshall photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - When Auburn started spring practice, Derrick Moncrief knew only that he was going to be relentless in his effort. Eleven practices in, he has done just that, and it has landed him on the first team at boundary safety.
"I just knew I had to be relentless," Moncrief said after Thursday's practice. "I was just going to work hard and play fast and don't worry about mistakes, because they are going to come. It's worked out so far."
Moncrief (6-2, 218), a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, knows all too well there are no guarantees. Senior Brandon King (6-1, 213), a former junior college transfer, is pushing him from behind. Josh Holsey, the starter in 2013 before suffering a season-ending injury, will be full-speed when preseason practice starts in August.
"You have to stay focused at all times," Moncrief said. "You can easily get distracted. Really, figuring the formations out and getting the checks out fast is the main thing, and being physical."
Charlie "Cheese" Harbison, who coaches the safeties and the stars, says Moncrief made it clear from the start that he was going to compete.
"Moncrief has really done an exceptional job coming in and learning the system," Harbison said. "He's fit right in. He came in from junior college and with a great attitude, a great work ethic."
During last season's run to the BCS Championship Game, Auburn was frightfully thin at safety. After Holsey was injured at the end of practice on Thursday before Auburn went to Texas A&M, Ryan White moved from cornerback to safety and played there with no practice.
The return of senior Jermaine Whitehead (5-11, 193) as the starter at field safety, Moncrief's rapid development, the move of Johnathan 'Rudy' Ford (6-0, 199) from cornerback to safety and King's move from star to safety have resolved those issues.
"Whitehead is a guy that leads the safety room," Harbison said. "He also does a great job with the system and the scheme. Rudy is making great steps. He's getting better by the day. He's conscientious. He wants to learn. He has speed and size. He's a great complement to Whitehead."
King started preseason practice last season at safety, moved to star and back to safety.
"I like his size," King said. "Those two are complementing each other. The more reps they get, the better they get. They are physical guys, and I like that."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: