When the Tigers open spring football practice on Feb. 28, Herring will be the first-team strongside linebacker ahead of fellow senior Kevin Sears. While the move will take some getting used to, Herring said that it's something he's happy with if it makes his team stronger.
"The first I heard about it was Friday," Herring said. "Coach Muschamp called me and told me to come by his office because he wanted to talk with me about some things. He mentioned the idea and told me they had discussed the idea and asked me what I thought about it. I told him he was the coach and he makes the decisions that are the best for this team. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to put the best 11 out there and put us in the best chance to win."
Auburn's leading tackler has season with 69 stops, Herring has always been a player that seemed more at home close to the line of scrimmage helping to slow down the opposing running game. Now he'll have the chance to do that full-time if things work out in spring practice. Tuesday Coach Tommy Tuberville said that it won't solely depend on how well Herring does, but probably more important is how well Tristan Davis and Lorenzo Ferguson play at free safety in his absence.
Herring's athleticism should serve him well as he makes the move to linebacker.
With Herring at linebacker it means both sophomores have a chance to step into the spotlight on defense for the Tigers. Both quicker and better cover men, they'll likely bring something different to the defensive backfield. Herring said that there are several players on defense that have a chance to shine this spring and that could ultimately determine where he plays next fall.
"I think we've got four really good guys coming along at safety with those two along with Eric (Eric Brock) and Steve (Steve Gandy)," Herring said. "That's definitely going to weigh into the total picture, how far they come along. We've got two or three really good young linebackers in Tray (Tray Blackmon) and Merrill (Merrill Johnson), so as other guys progress that will also help to play out the best 11 out there and where I wind up I imagine."
One thing Herring has doing for him is a complete knowledge of not only Auburn's defense, but of how opponents like to attack in certain down and distance situations. That should only serve him better in making the move to linebacker under Muschamp. Herring said that although they haven't been on the field yet under their new coach, he has already made quite an impression on the team.
"He knows his stuff," Herring said. "Right now they're throwing a lot at us, a lot of new terminology. It seems like some really good stuff. One thing you can tell is that he really believes in what he is coaching. That weighs a lot on the guys as far as believing in the system. Knowing where he's been and where he's coming from, we respect him as a coach, we respect him as a man, and we're ready to follow his lead this year on defense."
The same is true of Herring's new position coach James Willis. A former Auburn player and NFL veteran, Willis is back with the Tigers after a stint with Rhode Island and several months with Temple. Young and energetic, Herring said that Willis brings something to the table that most college coaches can't and that is a built in tie with the players because of his age and past.
"He's been where we are now just a few years ago," Herring said of Willis. "He played in the league many years and it's almost like he's really good at seeing things from our perspective. He's good at telling us not only what to do, but why we're doing what we're doing. He's breaking it down and laying it out because he was a player not too long ago."
A smart player, mentally Herring should be fine transitioning to linebacker. The only question mark is his size. Although he's larger than any of Auburn's starting trio at the end of last season, he said he wants to keep getting bigger to ensure he has what it takes to excel at the position.
"I don't think it will hurt," Herring said. "Every off-season I'm trying to get a little bigger and a little stronger without losing any speed. I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing. Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) is the best in the country at what he does. I couldn't be in a better place to do that."