Justin Garrett says he's ready to go at linebacker for Auburn this season
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Justin Garrett was once the star of the Star position, a spring-practice standout and MVP that had him ticketed for big things.
Alas, that spring of 2013 turned into a series of injuries and position shifts, Not to worry, the senior says he's overcome the missteps and is ready to play a more traditional linebacker spot for new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp
"Everything I went through made me a better man," Garrett said Friday after Auburn's fourth preseason practice. "Being able to learn the game and have Muschamp as my coach is a blessing, so I'm just ready to attack the season."
He'll attack the season at linebacker, not the hybrid Star position he was assigned in 2013, In the non-stop daily competition devised by Muschamp, Garrett is in the mix for starting time. He's practiced at both linebacker positions, a far cry from where he started as a freshman.
"I came in at 190 and to be 230 now," Garrett said.
Garrett suffered a foot injury before the 2013 season, and then another foot injury only two games. He suffered a bad ankle sprain this spring.
Garrett said strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell put him on the right track. Besides getting bigger, he's gotten healthier, thanks in part to new arch supports in 2014.
"That's the reason I kept suffering those foot injuries. Now, I've got custom cleats where the base is wide enough for my foot, so I shouldn't have that problem anymore," Garrett said.
Garrett said the fix is "better late than never" and, besides, "If I had never gotten injured, my years would be up and I wouldn't have a chance to experience a great coaching staff we have now. I learn so much because of Coach Muschamp."
Garrett's versatility had coaches trying him out at different positions. But Muschamp put him at linebacker and said go.
"This is my first time actually being able to go through linebacker in the spring and knowing this is going to be my position going into the fall and the season," Garrett said. "Normally, my position would get switched throughout the week and I wouldn't really know which position I'd play each game. Now, I feel comfortable I know this is the stationary position I'm going to be at and being able to go out there and work every day to get better."
That puts him in the competition to play. And Garrett gives insight on how that's handled.
"It's a battle every day," Garrett said. "We do production every day after practice and if the next man's production is higher than your production, then he's starting him the next day in practice. There's a whole lot of accountability, so you can go out there and have a great practice one day and then if you don't produce the next day, you won't be starting.
"He puts a lot of accountability on you to go out there and do your best every day because the next man working just as hard as you. You don't feel like there's any favoritism or anything like that. If you go out there and bust your butt and work hard, then you have a chance to start no matter who you are."
Garrett said he likes Muschamp's approach.
"Hands on, energetic. Just a great coach," Garrett said. "He's hard on you, but that's just because he expects more out of you. If he's being hard on you, being how he is, you have to appreciate that because he's really teaching you and he wants you to be better on and off the football field as a man. He wants you to hold responsibility on and off the football field. Go about your business the right way in the classroom, in the dorms, on the football field and meetings. He just wants you to carry yourself like a true Auburn man. I respect that a lot out of Coach Muschamp."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTiers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine