2009 Spring Football Preview: Linebackers

Part four of the Inside the Auburn Tigers spring football preview series features the linebackers.

Auburn, Ala.—Defensive coordinator Ted Roof will also serve as coach of the linebackers, which is an obvious concern heading into the spring of 2009.

Roof has a good base to start with in Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens, but those are the only proven players across the board at linebacker.

Bynes made 53 stops with three interceptions taking over as the starting middle linebacker five games into his sophomore season is 2008.

Craig Stevens, a two-year starter at the strongside, made 54 tackles as a sophomore last season. Bynes and Stevens are expected to be the bell cows of the linebackers with an overall lack of experience and depth.

Gone from last season are Chris Evans, Merrill Johnson, Courtney Harden and Tray Blackmon, leaving Auburn with just six scholarship linebackers for the spring.

Other than Bynes and Stevens there is little to no experience on fall Saturdays for the other returnees. Spencer Pybus played enough as a true freshman last season to get his feet wet, seeing action in 11 games and recording 14 tackles. Upcoming sophomore Adam Herring played primarily on special teams and Da'Shaun Barnes took a redshirt in his first year on the Plains in 2008.

All three of those players will be counted on to show they have what it takes to play the linebacker position in the SEC this fall.

Stevens had just half a tackle for a loss last season and needs to become more of a playmaker.

The good news is that Eltoro Freeman from Benjamin Russell High School via Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is enrolled at Auburn for spring semester classes and will participate in spring drills. Freeman was a Scout.com five-star prospect, and with Bynes returning in the middle and Stevens on the strongside, Freeman could earn a starting role at weakside linebacker.

Roof has stated that he wouldn't be opposed to moving players around from different positions to find the right mix of 11 guys on the field. Whether it's a safety or a defensive end, moving a player or two to linebacker to shore up depth is certainly a possibility.

Walk-on Wade Christopher, from Vestavia Hills High School, or any other walk-on who proves he has what it takes could also earn a spot in the rotation.

The Auburn defense is expected to show three and four-man fronts so that could mean defensive ends playing the part of outside linebackers when the Tigers show a 3-4. One player accustomed to doing that is Antonio Coleman, who thrived in that role under former coordinator Will Muschamp. Antoine Carter may also get a look at that spot.

If Freeman lives up to his billing then Auburn could have a talented and productive starting three. However, the Tigers can't afford to have injuries or attrition with only two proven players heading into the spring.

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