Auburn's linebacker depth developing behind McKinzy, Frost
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson really liked what he saw from Auburn’s two top linebackers, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost, after the first two days of practice. Who was going to be their back-ups on his two-deep depth chart was looking like a “mad scramble.” Johnson excepts no more than four or five linebackers to be on his depth chart.
But after seven days of practice and one scrimmage, Johnson is getting a clearer picture of what his Tiger defense is going to look like. With Friday being Auburn’s first day off since fall camp started, Johnson and the rest of the coaching staff will have the entire day to look at tape and discuss where players stand.
“We are starting to get some guys that have made some moves,” Johnson said Thursday. “Some new guys are making progress. Some guys from the spring that we thought were looking pretty good started to do some things. It’s clearing up a little bit.”
In particular, Johnson needed to see how three linebackers that missed all or part of the spring practice have progressed since fall camp started. Johnson said junior linebacker Anthony Swain had four or five tackles and forced a fumble in Wednesday’s scrimmage. Swain was McKinzy’s backup last year and recorded 26 tackles. He missed the entire spring with an undisclosed off-the-field issue. Khari Harding, making the move from safety, hurt his wrist in the scrimmage. Johnson said Harding’s wrist is fine. Harding missed some of spring practice with a stress fracture in his foot. Javiere Mitchell, who broke his foot in the SEC Championship, is exactly where he should be, Johnson said.
“It’s hard to separate them,” Johnson said of three linebackers.
Elsewhere on the defense…
A couple of starting positions are “dead even”, Johnson said but didn’t indicate which positions they were.
Overall, Johnson liked the way the young guys looked in scrimmage which featured a 24-play blitz period as well as a half-line drill to evaluate linemen.
“I was pleased with them being in the right place, doing the right things, the right run fits; drops in coverage were pretty dog gone good, man coverage pick-ups; we didn’t bust a bunch of coverages,” he said.
Johnson likes the size and physicality of freshmen defensive backs Markell Boston (6-foot, 191 pounds) and Stephan Roberts (5-11, 180 pounds).
“They’ve had a really good six days,” said Johnson. “They aren’t ready to play on Saturdays yet but, I’ll tell ya, they keep showing up. They look like they can fit in there physically.”
With three weeks left of camp Johnson isn’t drawing a line in the sand just yet. There is plenty of time left and a lot more work to do,
“I couldn’t write a depth chart now but we are starting to get a feel of who we can count on,” said Johnson.