Spring Position Preview: Linebackers

A look at the linebackers is featured as the Auburn Tigers return to the practice field making preparations for their 2014 season.

Auburn, Ala.--Ellis Johnson did a lot of experimenting with the linebacker positions last season and he has the potential to do that again in his second year as the group's position coach and defensive coordinator.

Johnson returns two players with extensive game experience, juniors Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost, plus others who have seen action when games were on the line.

McKinzy led the 2013 Tigers in tackles with 43 solo stops and 32 assists as he started every contest for the 12-2 SEC champions. He made eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and was credited with six quarterback pressures plus two sacks. He also had one of the Tigers' 13 interceptions.

Frost played in all 14 games and started once at middle linebacker where graduating senior Jake Holland started the other contests and made 46 tackles.

Kris Frost has big-play potential for the Auburn defense.

Frost is coming off a season in which he was fifth on the team in total tackles. His open field tackle on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the fourth quarter of Auburn's victory in College Station was one of the big plays of the season for the Tigers. Frost was credited with 33 solos and 26 assists with six tackles for lost yardage and three quarterback hurries.

Justin Garrett, the Defensive Most Valuable Player of last year's spring game at the "star" rover position, was injured in preseason with a foot problem and saw limited action last fall after moving to the weakside linebacker spot. Garrett, who played in just two games and made two tackles, should be ready to compete for a starting spot this spring and it will be interesting to see if he stays at linebacker or moves back to the "star" position. Coach Gus Malzahn said the plan for spring training is to look at Garrett as both a "star" and a linebacker.

Anthony Swain made steady improvement as a sophomore. He finished with 26 tackles and recovered a fumble. He should provide depth at weakside linebacker where the Tigers have also used Javiie Mitchell, who played in 13 games as a redshirt freshman, mainly on the goal line defense and on special teams.

Anthony Swain makes a tackle against Cameron Artis-Payne in practice.

Mitchell, who missed the BCS Championship Game due to torn ligaments in his foot, is not expected to be cleared for contact until fall practice.

A pair of newcomers on last year's roster, juco transfer Kenny Flowers and freshman Cameron Toney, will try to impress Johnson this spring. Toney redshirted last year and Flowers, who arrived at Auburn as a sophomore, has two seasons of eligibility remaining after making one solo tackle and three assists in limited playing time.

Auburn's linebacker signees in the 2014 class, Tre Williams and DeShaun Davis, are finishing high school this spring and are scheduled to be on campus this summer.

The Tigers will begin spring drills on Tuesday and play their annual spring A-Day Game on April 19th.

Spring Preview, Wide Receiver

Spring Preview, Running Backs

Spring Preview, Defensive Line

Spring Preview, Quarterbacks


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