Cassanova McKinzy looking for big things in Auburn's new defense
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- The talk was that Auburn linebacker Cassanova McKinzy might enter his name in the NFL Draft after his junior year.
Not true, he told coach Gus Malzahn and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. McKinzy told them months ago he wasn't going anywhere.
"They called me and said they were coming, but I told them they didn't have to, because the simple fact was, who wouldn't want to play under those two guys at the same point in time? So I just told them, 'Don't even worry about it. I'm coming back.' I wanted to graduate with my teammates and when I leave, I wanted to leave with my class," McKinzy said.
McKinzy and Kris Frost return to the Auburn linebacker corps with plenty of experience. They have played in a combined 71 games and have a combined 340 tackles in their careers. They were the second and third-leading tacklers last year, with McKinzy's 91 tackles and Frost's 87. And this year they'll have company at linebacker, after Auburn ditched a defense that featured two linebackers the last two years for a Muschamp defense that will feature at least three.
And while titles may remain the same -- McKinzy is still a linebacker -- the responsibilities may change at the snap of the ball.
"In this defense, my role is being more of a cover guy. The (previous) years, I was more of a run guy," McKinzy said. "He's trying to make me cover and be more vocal, which I don't mind. I don't mind showing a lot more things that I can do -- stopping the run or playing the box.
"For the new system, I feel like I'm at a learning stage right now. When I get everything and adapt to it -- I'm trying to take constructive criticism and do the things the coaches want me to do. But I think I'm having a pretty productive spring."
Auburn's defense won the day in the first spring scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Last Saturday's scrimmage was more of a draw.
"For the spring, the big picture -- the main goal -- was for us to evaluate the depth on both sides of the ball, three-deep and get our base defense and offense," McKinzy said. "As far as the spring has been going, we've just been trying to climb to the top mentally and physically and just trying to learn the base of our offense and our defense."
McKinzy can find security in Frost, his longtime linebacker mate.
"I feel like, in my heart, we are the best returning duo," McKinzy said. "I feel like we've both had a lot of snaps and that's going to take our defense a long way as far as being out there a lot in live fire. I think because we're seniors, everybody looks at us to lead. So we've got to continue to do that."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine