Robenson Therezie kicked last year off for Auburn with two interceptions in the season-opener.

Carl Lawson announced his presence when he sacked Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace twice.

Dee Ford brought Johnny Manziel down in a heap to end the Texas A&M game.

Cassanova McKinzy was a ball hawk with a team-leading 75 tackles, including 8 for a loss.

And, of course, there was Chris Davis.

On the defensive side of the ball last year, Auburn had its share of playmakers. They shined in the spotlight because of individual efforts that made the highlight reel.

One player, despite starting all 14 games, didn’t have the flash, the sizzle. He is Auburn’s quarterback on defense but didn’t have the “sexy stats” as defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson put it. He went mostly unnoticed, unseen, overlooked; was taken for granted in some cases yet had 65 tackles, two interceptions, six pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

Jermaine Whitehead, the cornerstone of the Tigers secondary, has a team-first mentality. The senior wants the guys next to him to thrive more than himself.

“I had to do a lot for the team,” Whitehead told the Montgomery Advertiser. “It’s a role I feel, if I’m in shape enough and I can be productive out there then cool. But we got guys on the bench that can make plays, that can come in behind me, I definitely would love to see those guys come in and be able to do that.”

Leaning on Whitehead wasn’t something that just happened last year. In 39 games he’s registered 182 tackles and 17 pass break-ups. In 2012 he led the team in tackles.

“I guess the code word on him is consistency,” said Johnson. “He doesn’t have sexy stats that…get national media attention. People can’t sit down and watch every college player on film, so they go to the statistics and that’s important, don’t get me wrong. It’s about making plays.

“But he’s kind of quarterbacked our defense back there in the back and when we lost (Josh) Holsey, it was a tremendous load on his shoulders, because others were not in control of what they were doing nearly as much as Josh had been. So that all fell back on Whitehead. If you go back over his previous three years, I’d say he’s been as consistent a football player as Auburn’s had.”

Whitehead has goals for the season. He wants more interceptions. Being on the field as much as he has been through three years, he believes he should have more. He also has dreams of playing in the NFL. All that might be personal aspirations but he believes it will happen if the Tigers achieve Whitehead’s No. 1 goal: a national championship.

“If we play well and make the plays we’re supposed to make,” Whitehead said. “I think it’s going to be hard to deny us.”