Editor's Note: These lists feature our thoughts on the most important players for Auburn heading into the 2016 football season. We are counting down 16 key Tigers for the offense and 16 more for the defense as Coach Gus Malzahn's team prepares to face Clemson in the season opener.
Auburn, Ala.--With seniors Kris Frost, Justin Garrett and Cassanova McKinzy no longer suiting up for the Auburn Tigers, the linebacker position will have a much different look in 2016 and one of the players expected to play a key role is sophomore Darrell Williams.
A four-star prospect out of powerhouse Hoover High, Williams played almost exclusively on special teams last season as a true freshman, but that won’t be his role this fall. Expected to battle incoming transfer T.J. Neal for a starting role opposite Tre Williams at one of the linebacker spots, Williams is also expected to shift outside to the strongside linebacker position in certain situations.
That versatility is a strength of Darrell Williams and makes him an important part of Auburn’s defensive plays heading into the season. At 6-2, 231 pounds he possesses the physical ability to play in the box, but with his athleticism and coverage skills the sophomore will be a player to watch for the Tigers.
Best Case Scenario: With every opportunity to be on the field a great deal for the Tigers this season, Williams has the type of skills that could make him a big-time playmaker on defense for Coach Travis Williams. Capable of covering guys on the perimeter, he has a chance to be an impact player at linebacker unlike anyone Auburn has had in recent seasons.
Worst Case Scenario: The big question for Williams is will he turn it loose this season and perform at a high level like he is capable of doing . He was used to playing within the system at Hoover, meaning he was in coverage for much of the time and chasing plays going away from him. Now he will be at the point of attack much more than he has ever been and he will need to respond.
Darrell Williams showed a lot of promise in the spring.
Career Comparison: When I watch Williams he reminds me a lot of former Georgia standout and current Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. A player who can do everything, Davis went from safety to linebacker and became one of the best players in the NFL at his position because of his versatility.
Williams At His Best: Showing that versatility in a big way, Williams had two interceptions in the Under Armour All-American Game as a senior. One of those came with the big linebacker deep in coverage in the secondary.
Quote: “Darrell, he’s stepped up to that next level and I love it,” Auburn junior linebacker Tre Williams said. “Last year he was kind of struggling in some places and you can tell he’s been working.”