Young Linebacker Sees Signs of Progress

Linebacker Merrill Johnson discusses development as the Tigers prepare for a road trip to Kentucky.

Auburn, Ala.--After making three tackles vs. Ole Miss, Merrill Johnson says he is eager to contribute more to the defensive cause as his Tigers head north to play the Kentucky Wildcats this week.

With senior Antarrious Williams seeing just limited duty on punt coverage teams last week while resting a sore neck, Johnson got extra playing time as a backup at weakside linebacker vs. Ole Miss after being a spectator most of the time the previous two games as the Tigers won at Arkansas and lost at LSU.

"The more I play, the more comfortable I feel out there," Johnson says. "I feel like I was very prepared going into the last game and that helped.

"Looking at film of the Ole Miss game, we did pretty good on defense," the redshirt freshman adds. "We had great effort. Everybody was running to the ball. They didn't score a touchdown and that is what defense is all about. We take a lot of pride in that."

Auburn will play at Kentucky on Saturday at noon CST and Johnson says he hopes to see plenty of action vs. the Wildcats. "Having a chance to play excites me a lot," he says. "I am going to watch a lot of film and be even more prepared than I was last week. I want to take that to the practice field and get better every day."

Johnson puts a hit on a Rebel as the Tigers improved their record to 4-1 in the SEC and 6-2 overall.

Johnson says that weakside starting linebacker Antarrious Williams, who could have played if needed, was there for advice as the Tigers defeated Ole Miss 27-6. "With AT not playing, he helped me out a lot," Johnson notes. "If he saw something going on from the sideline, he would say, ‘Hey, you need to watch this or watch for that.'"

On the subject of watching, Johnson says the Auburn linebackers study a lot film of their opponents. "We all do that," he says. "The older guys tell us to get in there and watch the film and it will help."

Johnson's Tigers are ranked number one in total defense for SEC games, allowing 255.2 yards per contest, and they have shown signs of steady improvement throughout the season, something that the linebacker figures will continue to happen.

"We are coming together as a defense," he says. "Everybody is doing their job. I don't know how much better we can get, but I do know that good is the enemy of greatness and great is what we are trying to be."

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