By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. -- One hundred eight-two.
Sure, Auburn will miss Tre' Williams and his 50 tackles from this past season -- he's the first linebacker to graduate since Kevin Steele has been the defensive coordinator -- but 182 is the number of tackles recorded last year by the three projected starters at linebacker for the Tigers this coming season. And all three are seniors.
Between Deshaun Davis (82), Darrell Williams (57) and Montavious Atkinson (43), there's no lack of experience in the linebacker room. Add in younger players like Richard McBryde, K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten, and there's plenty of talent in there, too.
"Just looking at our room, we've got a really good room," Davis said. "This is the probably the best we're going to be since Coach Steele has been here. I credit it to our coaching staff and our position coach, but it's also us (seniors) being leaders in this defense and knowing the system inside and out and just coaching up the young guys.
"I still feel like Coach Steele will have enough guys, enough talent in the room to grab someone and throw someone out there, and they'll play to the Auburn standard."
Davis is a two-year starter at middle linebacker who has 150 career tackles, but the best might still be yet to come. After the Tigers wrapped up spring practice Tuesday, the senior tweeted that it was by far his "best and most productive" spring since he's been at Auburn.
Just completed my final spring as a college athlete, BY FAR my best and most productive one! 💪🏾 Thanking God for an injury free one. 🙏🏾 Time to dominate the summer and get ready for a DOMINATING season! 😤 #AllGod 💎
Williams has also started the past two seasons for Auburn. As the strongside linebacker this past fall, he finished third on the team with 57 tackles and also had four tackles for loss.
And then there's Atkinson, who will likely become a fixture in the starting lineup for the first time after rotating at the weakside linebacker spot the past two seasons. Despite only starting five games last season, he still finished with 43 tackles, including a career-high seven tackles at Missouri.
"I think it's going good this year for us," Atkinson said. "These are guys I came in with and I've been playing with since Day 1, and I think we've got good chemistry. I think we're just bonding together and we're able to talk on the field and get things now.
"We're just flying around and making plays."
However, before you go and set the depth chart for Auburn next fall, remember that Steele says there are no starters. There's a standard.
So it was no surprise to see Auburn linebackers' coach Travis Williams working in players like Britt and Wooten with the first-team unit this spring to see who works well together and which combinations will be best in the fall. It's the job of the seniors to make sure those younger guys are prepared to play up to the standard that was set when they first arrived.
"That's called leadership," Steele said. "When you got leadership leading guys and helping coaches, then it comes from within. The greatest leadership tool there is is peer pressure. When those guys are on them about the standard, the accountability, responsibility, the effort, the tackling, knowing your job, doing your job -- it's a major growth when that happens."
The Auburn defensive line will likely get most of the notoriety this season, and rightfully so, but don't sleep on a linebacker group that's full of talent and experience.
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: