McKinzy Makes An Impact In First Start

Auburn freshman linebacker Cassanova McKinzy discusses his play in the loss to Vanderbilt.

Nashville, Tenn.—For six weeks Auburn freshman linebacker Cassanova McKinzy sat and watched and tried to learn as much as possible about Brian VanGorder's defensive scheme. On Saturday the physical newcomer finally got a shot to show what he could do and while the game ended with the Tigers falling 17-12, McKinzy more than held up his end of things with his play.

Finishing with 12 total tackles in his first real playing time of the season, McKinzy said it was just great to have a chance to show what he could do after earning the start this week in practice.

"I think it was a great opportunity," McKinzy said. "You know, I just want to thank the coaches for giving me the opportunity.

"I never was told I was going to start," he added. "I just earned. Coach always says that you earn what you get. I just earned playing time. I earned the game time I got today, so I really appreciate it."

In charge of getting the defense lined up and the defense called, McKinzy said that getting prepared for the game by working hard in practice had him ready when he was called upon to get the job done on Saturday.

"It's not too much of a difference because in practice they try to give as much realism as they can," McKinzy said. "The only thing that was different out there was the game speed in the hurry-up offense. When the bullets start flying at you, as a freshman, you know you start thinking, playing fast. I think I played alright. I had a lot of mistakes, but as a team, we fought."

Getting hit with an up-tempo offense early in the game that caught them off guard, Auburn's defense responded with a solid day of work with the exception of the three scoring drives for the Commodores. McKinzy said for him it was just a matter of settling in and playing football, which he was able to do after some early butterflies.

"After the first couple of downs, I got real comfortable," McKinzy said. "When I got contact, I realized, this is something I've been doing all my life, it's just at a different level, so I got pretty comfortable real fast."

Hoping to build on not only the play of McKinzy, but of the defense as a whole, Auburn will have a tough challenge next week against Texas A&M at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Needing a win just to get something positive around the program, McKinzy said all the Tigers can do right now is keep pushing.

"I mean, we're just going to keep on fighting until we win," McKinzy said. "It's a process. You know, we're building, and the only thing you can do is keep on coming to practice, working hard, and doing what you do."

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