Sept. 15, 2013
Jake Holland (5) and Josh Holsey combine for a tackle against Mississippi State (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Justin Garrett is a linebacker again. Brandon King has made a move at the hybrid star position. That was the significant news Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson had to offer Sunday, a day after Auburn beat Mississippi State 24-20 to move to 3-0.
Garrett, who was a spring practice standout at the star position, missed the first two games because of a foot injury. In his absence, Robenson Therezie took charge of star, a combination safety and linebacker position. When Garrett returned against Mississippi State, it was as a weakside linebacker. That's the position he played his first two Auburn seasons. And that's where he is likely to stay.
"Justin has had probably a total during the week of about 45 plays at Will linebacker," Johnson said. "He made some mistakes, but the first five plays he is on the field he makes three tackles and one tackle for loss. Some guys just have an instinct for making plays. It's my job to get him schooled up and ready to play."
Sophomore Cassanova McKinzy has started the first three games at Will linebacker. He played against Mississippi State despite a sore knee. Garrett still has some pain, too.
Ellis said either one could be the starter when the Tigers go to Baton Rouge on Saturday to play LSU at Tiger Stadium. He said it will depend on how they perform during the coming week's practice.
Junior college transfer Brandon King, Johnson said, has moved past freshman Mackenro Alexander to be Therezie's solid backup at the star position.
Johnson said Auburn's linebackers did a "solid job" against Mississippi State. With Kris Frost suspended for the first half after being hit with a targeting penalty a week earlier, Jake Holland played every first-half snap at middle linebacker. He got some relief from Frost in the second half.
"It helped a little bit," Johnson said. "I don't think Kris had but one or two tackles. It was helpful in that Jake had to go 40-something snaps the first half. I'd moved Anthony Swain over, but he hadn't had time to get really comfortable. I knew Jake wasn't too fatigued, but he needed a blow. It was good to get Kris back, obviously, for that reason.
"Jake played as well as Kris did overall. He had more tackles, more production and really fit the run pretty well. I thought we played better up front the second half. Some of our interior guys got after it and really played a lot better."
Holland was credited with eight tackles. Frost was credited with one.
Auburn played without senior cornerback Chris Davis against Mississippi State. Ellis said Davis' status for LSU remains uncertain.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: