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No answers yet in race for playing time at linebacker

Aug. 6, 2013

By Phillip Marshall

AUBURN, Ala. – Some have looked better than others in drills. Others have lost weight. And what does that say about Auburn’s linebackers?

Not enough for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. Not yet.

“Depth chart-wise, I feel like a few guys have an edge on other guys, but it’s too early to say that a guy has not played his way into contention or doesn’t have a chance,” Johnson said. “We haven’t done enough at this point for me to tell you if a guy can play linebacker or not. I know which ones can run around in pass skel, and I know which ones can do drills and things.”

And that, Johnson said after the fourth practice of preseason camp Monday, might mean a lot and might not mean much.

“Sometimes a player who doesn’t look real cute in a drill is just a good, natural player,” Johnson said. “Sometimes a player who can do all the right things when you go out and when you walk through the barrels and everything, he’s good. Then five days later you run it and he can’t remember it. So, we just have to see who surfaces.”

Tuesday, Johnson will get his first look at his linebackers and the rest of his defense under full-speed conditions when the Tigers wear full gear for the first time in preseason camp.

“From the standpoint of mental assignments, it’s been really good,” Johnson said. “As far as the physicality, we don’t really know because we’ve been running around in shorts. We’ll find out more the next few days.”

Sophomore Kris Frost was No. 1 at middle linebacker after spring practice, narrowly ahead of senior Jake Holland. Sophomore Cassanova McKinzy was No. 1 at weakside linebacker. Johnson praised both for their work in preseason camp and said that Holland is working with the first team at both positions.



Other players are working to get in the mix. Junior LaDarius Owens, who moved from defensive end before spring practice, has moved from Mike to Will. Sophomore Anthony Swain has moved from Will to Mike. Both, Johnson said, have made progress after some early struggles. Sophomore Kenny Flowers, a junior college transfer, has the skill to make an impact but must learn the defense, Johnson said.

McKinzy, Johnson said, has lost weight and improved dramatically since spring.

“His change of direction, acceleration and explosion at the point of attack, he’s a lot better,” Johnson said. “He can practice longer at a fast tempo. He did a good job dropping some pounds, and it really shows.”

Johnson said he wants to make decisions as soon as possible, but much remains to be done.

“I can’t give you a depth chart right now,” he said. “It’s going to have to clear up over the next four or five days, maybe longer.”


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



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