Listed as co-starters on the game one depth chart, both Evans and Johnson have starting experience and have done well in the past three seasons for Tommy Tuberville's Tigers. Competing for the same job could have put a strain on the friendship that has developed since their freshman seasons, but both say their relationship is better than ever.
"Merrill and I are great friends," Evans tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "This battle is not really a battle. We're going out there and making each other better.
"When he goes in he knows everything to do and the defense won't miss a beat," Evans states. "When I go in I know everything and the defense won't miss a beat. It works out the best for the both of us.
"When you're winded and you feel like you can't go you've just got to suck it up," he adds. "Now the person is about the same and there won't be any downfall. All you've got to do is tap your helmet and he comes out there.
Johnson agrees with Evans about how the two will work together this season. "Coach Willis knows both of us can get the job done," Johnson says. "It's a great thing to keep both of us healthy. I can back up Chris and he can back up me. It feels great to have someone like that behind you."
Johnson and Evans and two of Auburn's most experienced players.
A grayshirt his first semester at Auburn along with senior center Jason Bosley, Evans had to pay his own way to school that first season and also work out with Bosley separated from the team before joining the Tigers for spring practice. Evans says that experience gave he and Bosley a bond that is still there to this day.
"We get together now and then," Evans notes. "We sit in the locker room or in the training room and talk about it. I'll pass by him or he'll pass by me and say ‘Chris, you remember when...I try to forget. I don't want to think about it any more. I think it's just one of those things that makes you stronger."
It not only made Evans and Bosley stronger, but it also gave teammates like Johnson a healthy respect for the work ethic needed for Evans to become the player he is today. "Chris is a great friend of mine," Johnson says. "We call ourselves the dynamic duo. Knowing that Chris came in and did that is fantastic. I have so much respect for him."
Perhaps Auburn's most important defensive player last season with all the injuries at the linebacker position, Evans comes into the year unsure if he'll even be a starter. One thing he's sure of is that he will play and he'll play a big role in Auburn's fortunes in 2008. For that he says he's thankful.