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Position breakdown: Close races at linebacker

July 28, 2013

Kris Frost moved to middle linebacker and was first team after spring (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Phillip Marshall

AUBURN, Ala. – Sophomores Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy left spring practice as Auburn’s first-team linebackers, but defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson says the race for playing will be wide-open when preseason camp starts Friday.

Frost finished just ahead of senior Jake Holland, the starter much of the past two seasons, in the middle. McKinzy finished the spring slightly ahead on the weak side. Redshirt freshman JaViere Mitchell, junior college transfer Kenny Flowers, sophomore Anthony Swain and true freshman Cameron Toney will get their chances. Junior LaDarius Owens could move back to defensive end, but if he remains at linebacker, he could also be heard from.

If Frost holds Holland off in the middle, Holland could be a contender to start on the weak side. Holland fell behind Frost in the spring after missing some practices and meetings because of a class crucial to his building science major. That should not be an issue in preseason camp or during the season.

Regardless of who starts, Johnson says at least four linebackers will get significant playing time. With only two linebackers in Johnson’s 4-2-5 scheme, depth is not an issue.

That, Holland says, will be a welcome change from recent seasons.

"As far as there being a nice rotation, that's what I like because any time you're playing 80 to 90 snaps a game your body is going to wear down," Holland said. "The rotation is going to be a huge help for us."

The candidates:

Kris Frost (6-2, 238, So.): Played sparingly on the outside last season. Moved to the middle before spring practice.

Cassanova McKinzy (6-3, 246, Fr.): Started two games at middle linebacker as a true freshman, making 12 tackles at Vanderbilt and seven tackles against Georgia.

Jake Holland (6-1, 240, Sr.): Was fourth on the team last season with 73 tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack. Started 10 games, missing the Georgia game because of an ankle injury.

JaViere Mitchell (6-2, 215, RFr.): Was making a big move in spring practice before being sidelined by a concussion. Could be upwardly mobile in preseason camp.

LaDarius Owens (6-2, 250, Jr.): Started his career at linebacker and moved to defensive end. At his own request, moved back to linebacker in the spring. He could play either position in the coming season.

Anthony Swain (6-2, 239, So.): Played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman, primarily on special teams.

Kenny Flowers (6-2, 230, So.): Was in on 95 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and broke up four passes as a redshirt freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College last season. Rated the nation’s No. 2 junior college linebacker by 247Sports. Was an All-State performer at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Ga.

Cameron Toney (6-2, 225, Fr.): Committed to previous staff but didn’t waver through coaching change. Played at Huntsville High School. Rated the No. 9 prospect in the state.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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