One of the players competing for that spot is Derrick Moncrief.
A physical player coming out of Prattville High School, Moncrief didn’t qualify academically and played the last two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Wanting the shot to play football at the highest level, Moncrief didn’t think twice when presented with the opportunity to play at Auburn.
Now just a bit more than a week from realizing his dream of playing football in the SEC and Jordan-Hare Stadium, Moncrief said he’s eager to get on the field for the first time when the Tigers take on the Arkansas Razorbacks on Aug. 30.
“I’m very excited,” Moncrief said. “It has been a long process. I’m excited and ready to rock and roll.”
There is still plenty of work to be done for Moncrief and the Tigers to be ready for the season, and much of that comes with the mental side of the game. While most of the defensive guys are entering their second season in Ellis Johnson’s scheme, Moncrief had a spring to get acquainted and he said it’s still a grind for him at times.
“I have been just trying to get better every day with the scheme and just conditioning and everything,” Moncrief said. “I think it’s going pretty good.
“I feel like I got a little bit better, but it’s all mental now with the season coming up,” he added. “From the physical aspect I’m good at that, but I want to get better at the mental aspect of things.”
Making the adjustment to a new defense isn’t the only change for Moncrief as he also has to learn a new role, playing the boundary safety. Always a field safety because of his ability to cover a lot of ground and be a leader, he said now his role is that of an enforcer and he loves everything about it.
“I played the field and played the boundary sometimes, but mostly the field,” Moncrief said of junior college. “I think things at the boundary happen faster. You have to react faster to it and look for the run fits and everything.
“I kind of thrive on that, being physical,” he added. “You can’t account for a safety being physical. You rarely see that nowadays.”
Learning from both Whitehead and Holsey, two of Auburn’s secondary leaders, Moncrief said his job now is to continue to get better. That’s the message being preached by coordinator Ellis Johnson every day and the talented defender said those are good words to live by.
Moncrief is shown at Auburn's Fan Day.
Living out his dream and that of his two older brothers, Moncrief said he can’t wait until he steps on the field for the first time. Even though he’s seen games from inside Jordan-Hare Stadium before and even played in the A-Day contest, he knows this time will be much different.
"I'm playing for my whole family,” he said. “First of all, I'm playing for Auburn University, but then I'm playing for my whole family. I'm living their dream so I'm putting it all on the line for them this year.
"I find myself thinking throughout the day, I just, you know, mind wanders off...just to be here and be a part of this university, it's a real special thing to me. August 30, it's going to be lights out."