Big Hit Ignites Linebacker's Play

Sophomore linebacker Kevin Sears discusses his play in the season opener.

Auburn, Ala.–-You have to forgive Auburn linebacker Kevin Sears if he feels a little overwhelmed as a starter for the Tiger this season at strongside linebacker. After learning from Karlos Dansby, watching his every move last season, Sears has fought the urge to try to live up to Dansby's reputation since last spring.

On Saturday in the Auburn football opening victory over Louisiana-Monroe, Sears earned his first career start and all he did was earn the coaches' defensive player of the week award for his performance. In addition to three tackles, Sears delivered several punishing blows that set the tone for the defensive effort against Louisiana-Monroe. Coach Tommy Tuberville has seen a lot of linebackers in his time and he said Sears looked good.

Kevin Sears

"Kevin Sears really played well for his first start, he was around the ball a lot," Tuberville said. "He played the run and pass as you would hope he would after working through the spring as a starting sam linebacker and going through two-a-days."

Another fan of the way Sears played on Saturday was defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. Looking for some players to step up at the linebacker position, Chizik has been very critical of his defense since spring practice. While he wasn't overjoyed with all aspects of its play on Saturday, Chizik said that Sears was a bright spot.

"I was proud of the way Kevin played," Chizik said. "He made a big hit or two in there and pressured the quarterbacks a couple of times. He looked like he was pretty active in there. That was good to see."

Sears gets physical with the Indians.

It didn't take long for Sears to make an impact on the game. Early in the contest, Sears floated into the flat and caught running back Mason Denham just as he was catching a pass. Driving him into the air, Sears planted him into the ground with a driving tackle that got his teammates excited.

"It got me real fired up," Sears said. "I was just trying to make a play out there and get the defense, the crowd and our offense fired up. That's what it did."

Defensively, the Tigers allowed just 239 yards of total offense to the Indians and just 99 yards through the air. Much of that is due to more speed on the field this season, particularly at linebacker. While both Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas could run with anyone, the trio of Sears, Travis Williams and Antarrious Williams have the burst of speed necessary to cover sideline to sideline, which is a big plus against the pass.

"We played a pretty solid game," Sears said. "We have to watch film and just get better. We've still got a long way to go. Any time you can shut somebody out it's big, especially in college. We had a pretty solid game."

Sears now prepares for his first conference start when Auburn visits the Mississippi State Bulldogs this Saturday for game scheduled to be televised reginally on Jefferson-Pilot sports at 11:30 a.m. With a game under his belt to watch and learn from, Sears said that although he played well there is plenty of room to improve for him and the defense as a whole.

"I was pretty satisfied with my performance," Sears said. "I know I have to watch a lot of film to get better."

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