Most of Gus Malzahn’s Auburn tenure has been offensive-focused. That’s a given when you have an offensive head coach. But, for the past two years the offense hasn’t held up their end of the bargain. During that time, it’s mostly been the defense keeping the Tigers in winning position. Most of the spotlight has shone on Carl Lawson, while our other defenders labored as unsung heroes.
Where will the spotlight shine on Auburn’s defense in 2017? Time will tell. But, we know one position where a leading man is certainly needed—linebacker.
It’s been a problem area in the post-Tuberville years. We’ve all noticed Auburn linebackers out of position pre-snap; and then afraid to fill a gap.
But—led by senior Tre Williams—Auburn’s latest linebackers have been changing the trend. Williams totaled 67 tackles in 2016. Mobile’s Deshaun Davis and Hoover’s Darrell Williams added 63 and 52 tackles last season.
While the defense loses two huge impact Tigers in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams, the linebackers will have to step in to fill the gaps, and clean up more than last year. For the 2017 Tigers to be elite, the linebackers must build on the last two seasons, and continue to elevate their play.
The Tigers need a linebacker to take the leading tackler spot away from the defensive backs—something no Auburn linebacker has done since Daren Bates in 2012.
Who will it be? Besides Williams, Montavious Atkinson also got in on the action with 30 tackles last year. Sophomore Tre Threat and newcomers K.J. Britt and T.D. Moultry also must play a role. If freshmen are thrown into the mix, lookout for Moultry, who received high praise from Auburn legend Kevin Greene during Army All-American Bowl practice.
So while all your friends are paying close attention to Jarrett Stidham, Kamryn Pettway and the Auburn offense, you can be ahead of the curve by watching our linebackers. They will tell you the tale of Auburn’s 2017 before anyone else. If they can take the next step it may mean the difference between a big let down and making it to the top.
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