April 10, 2014
Justin Garrett is healthy and happy heading into Saturday’s scrimmage (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Justin Garrett is cautious, remembering all too well the talk of last spring and the reality of autumn.
A year ago, Garrett had emerged as the main man on Auburn’s defense. He thrived at the star position in first-year coordinator Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 defense. Johnson said he was the highlight of spring practice and wondered why he’d not played more his first two Auburn seasons.
But injuries, his career-long plague, hit in August. Robenson Therezie took over the star position and wouldn’t let go.
Garrett (6-1, 224) and Therezie (5-9, 212) are splitting time at star as Auburn heads into the final week of spring practice, and Garrett says he feels good about where he is and what he’s done heading into Saturday’s scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“I feel good,” Garrett said after Thursday’s practice. “I’m ready to get back out there and play again.”
Is he back where he was last spring, when coaches and teammates talked about him as a blossoming star?
“I’m not really sure,” Garrett said. “We’ll find out on the football field Saturday. We’ll and see how far I’ve come.”
Garrett suffered a sprained ankle in the first scrimmage of last August, causing him to miss the season-opener. Therezie had breakout game with two interceptions, including the game-clincher in the fourth quarter.
When Garrett returned, he moved back to outside linebacker, his old position. Then he suffered a broken foot and his season was over. He’s healthy now and has two more seasons to play.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Garrett said. “All you can do is pray about it. Being injured and not being able to play humbles you. It makes you realize life is bigger than football."
Charlie “Cheese” Harbison, who coaches the safeties and the stars, says he’s not concerned about making room for both Garrett and Therezie in the playing rotation.
“No, that’s a blessing,” Harbison said. “In the course of the game, our guys play special teams. Our guys can stay fresh. When it’s a concern is when you don’t have depth. They can complement each other, work together and study together.”
Therezie has gotten limited reps during spring practice after starting every game last season. He says he’s happy to see Garrett full-speed again.
“I’m glad he’s back in the mix because he fits the position size-wise and with his athleticism,” Therezie said. “It will be great for him to learn both (star and linebacker) positions because he’s a run-first guy. It’s great to see him back out there.”
Sophomore Mackenro Alexander is behind Therezie and Garrett on the depth chart. Harbison says Alexander is making steady progress.
“Mackenro is getting better,” Harbison said. “I like where I am at star. The guys are all working really hard.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: