Kris Frost and his linebacker buddies gearing up for Auburn's first scrimmage of the preseason
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Auburn linebacker Tre' Williams says new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's practices haven't just been more physical than last year.
They've been "10 times more physical," Williams said, "And I like it because we have to be physical in this league."
The Tigers' linebackers, and the rest of the team, were put through a physical test during the first week of preseason practices that ended Saturday, and a tougher test awaits Monday in the first preseason scrimmage in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The linebacker race is open, say the participants, though Auburn returns starters Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. Justin Garrett, another contestant, says starting assignments have changed in practice based on the previous days' performance.
"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," Garrett said.
"It's definitely," Frost said, "raising the level of urgency in each of us. Everything is important and we know that. It's making us want to play harder, want to get after it and it's really effective on us, it really is."
Frost and Williams are at weakside linebacker. McKinzy and Garrett are at the other spot. The stat sheet says McKinzy had 91 tackles and Frost had 87 last season; Garrett had 17 and Williams had 16.
"Guys who have played very good football, and understand what it takes to be successful," Muschamp said of the foursome.
But the message in the early part of preseason work is: What have you done for the defense lately?
"It's been an exciting process," Williams said. "Coach Muschamp doesn't sugarcoat anything. If you mess up one day, he lets you know you messed up and y'all get it corrected in meetings. The next day, he gives the next guy the next opportunity to step up. I really like that opportunity he gives us. We've just got to take advantage of our time."
Frost, the veteran, gets it, too.
"All of us are really competitive, really competitive guys, especially at the linebacker position. We’re all just trying to do everything we can to get in that starting role. It's making us all better in the end.
"Regardless of who starts there's going to be a rotation regardless, guys are going to be coming in and out and we all have to have high production in everything we do."
Frost, McKinzy, Garrett and Williams have the most experience. They're all finding a more demanding preseason practice over last year's model.
"Coach Muschamp preaches toughness every day, and he's trying to make us tough," Williams said. "It doesn't matter what he says or what he does, we have to listen. If we listen to him ― of course, he's had a lot of accomplishments in the past ― he's going to make us where he wants us to be."
Williams was asked if he was ready for live tackling in Monday's scrimmage.
"Yes sir," he said. "Always."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine