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'Heat-seeking missile' among eight Auburn early defensive signees
Eight of Auburn's 15 early signees play defense.
Dec. 20, 2017

By Jeff Shearer

AUBURN, Ala. - When Gus Malzahn looks at Auburn's trio of incoming linebackers, he sees their position coach, Travis Williams.

"Travis was a little bit undersized, could run, was tough, All-SEC," Malzahn said.

An All-SEC linebacker at Auburn in 2004-05, the 6-foot-1 Williams weighed 200 pounds when he signed out of high school 2001. Auburn's 2005 media guide listed Williams, then a senior, at 207 pounds.

Two of Auburn's new LBs are slightly larger, the other a tad smaller.

Michael Harris and Josh Marsh are both 6-2, 215. Zakoby McClain is 6-0, 205. Malzahn praised the group's versatility.

"You're looking for guys that can run, too," Malzahn said. "We feel very good about the linebackers we have and I think everybody saw that this year. The linebackers we had this year were probably as good as any in our league. I think we had one All-SEC and we probably should have had two. These guys can run, they're very physical, they can tackle. They can help you on special teams."

With senior safeties Tray Matthews and Stephen Roberts concluding their careers in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, incoming safeties Smoke Monday, Jamien Sherwood and cornerback Christian Tutt will enroll early and compete for playing time next season.

"We're recruiting those guys to come in and help us, and they know it," Malzahn said "They all three have a skill set that can, and the great thing is all three are going to be here early and they'll go through spring. I just think that is very, very valuable."

Eight of Auburn's 15 early signees play defense. After Auburn's Wednesday bowl practice, Malzahn commented on the new Tigers.



Michael Harris, LB, 6-2, 215 (Tucker, GA): "Michael Harris is a big, rangy linebacker. He can play all the positions. He can rush the passer. I got a chance to watch him in person. He really played lights out. "

Josh Marsh, LB, 6-2, 215 (Decatur, AL): "Josh Marsh, a linebacker, a guy that really caught our eye in camp. He ran a 4.48 in our summer camp and just flew around. He has an edge about him."

Zakoby McClain, 6-0, 205 (Valdosta, GA): "Zakoby McClain's a great linebacker who can run. He's very physical. He's like a heat-seeking missile going to the ball."

Smoke Monday, DB, 6-3, 190 (Atlanta, GA): "Smoke Monday is a tall, rangy guy, a defensive back. We think he can play corner, can play safety. He really plays with an edge and has a great personality."

Daquan Newkirk, DL, 6-3, 280 (Orlando, FL): "Daquan Newkirk, defensive lineman that has been committed to us for a long time out of high school. He had to go to junior college. He played running back in high school. Very athletic, big guy."

Kayode Oladele, DE, 6-5, 250 (Miami, FL): "Kayode Oladele is a defensive end. He's a guy we think is going to be an excellent pass rusher. He also came to our camp and really stood out. I really like his personality and all that."

Jamien Sherwood, DB, 6-2, 200 (Jensen Beach, FL): "Jamien Sherwood, the defensive back, a big, athletic guy. He's 6-2, around 200. He played offense, played defense. I know a lot of schools were recruiting him to play offense. He's got that ability."

Christian Tutt, DB, 5-11, 195 (Thomson, GA): "Christian Tutt's a corner, really plays with an edge. He's got really good ball skills. He's a very good returner. What really stands out to me is his competitiveness."

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Ticket Information

Join Coach Malzahn and the seventh ranked Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as they play tenth ranked and undefeated UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Monday, January 1. Tickets are available online at or by phone at (855) 282-2010.

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:

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