One of the players who is in the mix for playing time is redshirt freshman Cameron Toney.
Focusing on learning the defense and improving physically while sitting out last fall, the 6-1, 243 Toney is currently working on both the weak side and in the middle for the Tigers. Getting the opportunity to learn from veterans Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy, the Huntsville native said so far things are going well for him in the spring.
"I think I got a lot better from my freshman year and just coming in from high school I improved a lot," Toney said. "I've been rotating with the ones (first-team defense), so I think I've been doing great.
"It means a lot to me," he added of his reps with the top group. "It means the coaches have got their eyes on me and they're really expecting a lot out of me. We're all together and he is looking at leaders to put in that spot."
It's definitely exciting to be in the mix following a tough redshirt season for Toney. Battling through a foot injury late in his senior year at Huntsville High, Toney was bothered by that much of his first year. While he would have rather been playing, he said in the long run taking a year to watch and learn proved to be beneficial for him.
"Being redshirted as a freshman was probably the toughest thing I went through just watching from the sideline, but it's one whole year to take advantage of and develop as a good player and come in and help that second year," he said. "Being redshirted really helped out a lot so I could work on rehabbing and getting back to my new me."
While the year off helped him physically to get ready for the rough and tumble world in the SEC, mentally the work has been done with the help of Frost and McKinzy. With experience in the defense and being older, the two have served as mentors to Toney since he arrived at Auburn and it's something he appreciates greatly.
"I look up to them," Toney said. "When I first came here they basically told me what I was going to go through, if I get redshirted what I was going to go through. I basically look up to those guys and I'm in a great position to help those guys out this year."
Saying his biggest adjustment is to the speed of the game now that he's no longer in high school, Toney said the entire defense is coming together more every day in Ellis Johnson's defense. Able to focus on the little things has made them a more complete until and also continue to improve physically, he said it's going to translate to production on the field in the end.
"We're strong," Toney said of the defensive unit. "We're a lot stronger. Every year we get stronger. Our goal is to get stronger every year and that's what we're accomplishing right now."