Aug. 11, 2013
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson works the defense (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Jake Holland missed time in spring practice because of class. He's caught up in the fall.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Sunday the senior is ahead at middle linebacker 11 days into fall practice.
"I feel like Jake Holland has had two really good scrimmages," Holland said. "Everybody else has been inconsistent. He's certainly, right now, got an edge on that starting spot, but it's still a very good competition."
The competition is Kris Frost.
The scoreboard says Holland was fourth on the team in tackles last year with 73. Frost was down the list with five tackles. Johnson said Cassanova McKinzy has looked good at weakside linebacker.
Now, "It was as much Jake's improvement as it was anything Kris did. Kris is about where he was in the spring. You're looking for steady improvement. Jake's better than he was in the spring. He's making plays. He's the most consistent linebacker I've got, but he's also making tackles and he's done a lot of good things."
Johnson said took a long at the backups in Saturday's scrimmage by not playing some projected starters and barely playing some others.
"We played a lot of young guys and held some critical guys out that we weren't really concerned about getting a lot of reps," he said. "Overall, as far as the young guys, I thought it was very, very iffy. It's still a learning process.
"It's to the point, the offense looks cute; and they make a mistake, we look cute. But right now, we're making so many mental mistakes there are not enough good plays executed on defense that we can find out who can play defense."
Not all was bad. "The effort was good; the tackling was a lot better."
At weakside linebacker, "Cassanova, in camp and through the spring, continues to make the best linebacker plays and do some things that you really can't coach," Johnson said.
Johnson said McKinzy has been "outstanding physically" and technique-wise.
"But he's been very inconsistent," Johnson said.
Johnson can't stop with Holland and McKinzy.
"We're trying to look for somebody that will challenge for that spot, because you really need four, if not five, as you go through the season," Johnson said. "It's very seldom that you get through the season with all of them healthy. Right now, it's still a little bit muddled at the Will linebacker spot."
Johnson is also looking at LaDarius Owens, JaViere Mitchell and newcomer Kenny Flowers at weakside linebacker.
"They're all a little bit behind Cassanova as far as being able to play and do as well as he does," Johnson said.
He's looking at Anthony Swain to back up Holland and Frost in the middle.
"There's still some good competition going on, and I think a little bit of the over-installation has created some of the mental mistakes," he said. "But we're not tackling as well as we should. I don't think we're doing a lot of things in a lot of areas as well as we should. Other than Jake kind of edging out Kris for a little while, it hasn't changed much."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twttier: