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Jul 22, 2017
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  Football Preview: Linebackers

Discussing linebacker positions this time last year was completely different. The Tigers were inexperienced and had holes to fill. Now, Auburn has experience and is looking more for quality depth at Mike, Will and Sam.

At this time in 2016, most of the linebacker talk for the fall circled around Illinois graduate transfer T.J. Neal and the star he would be. As everyone now knows, that’s not how things panned out. However, Tiger fans did watch Tre’ Williams, Deshaun Davis and Darrell Williams become household names on defense and establish themselves as Auburn’s starting corps.

The 2016 season storyline about linebackers came with Tre’ Williams expected to have a big season, but Davis and Darrell Williams barely seeing the field at all prior. The trio entered last season with a combined 76 tackles amongst each other, 71 of which were made by Tre’ Williams. But that’s just past now.

Tre’ Williams (Will), Davis (Middle) and Darrell Williams (Sam) finished 2016 with a combined 182. Tre’ Williams led the charge, finishing second on the team with 67 tackles. Davis was right behind him with 63 tackles, and Darrell Williams had 52.

These three are your guys entering fall camp. But who else will see the field?

That’s a question linebackers coach Travis Williams will have to answer. The Tigers have talent, but it’s mostly unproven behind the three upperclassmen that will start.

At Will, behind Tre’ Williams, junior Montravious Atkinson is expected to have plenty of time on the field. Atkinson moved from safety to linebacker before the 2016 season and recorded 30 tackles. To give an idea of how impactful he can be, during the offseason defensive coordinator Kevin Steele called Atkinson a “rolling ball of butcher knives.”

Another young face that could become a star is sophomore Richard McBryde. McBryde didn’t have the playing time on defense some expected as a freshman, but he did deliver pops throughout the season on special teams. McBryde is a player that could ease into replacing junior Darrell Williams one day, if all goes well. The same could be said for redshirt freshman K.J. Britt, who is expected to be second string behind Davis.

Two other names to keep in mind are Chandler Wooten and T.D. Moultry. Wooten, a 3-star signee in Auburn’s 2017 class, enrolled early and reportedly did not “look like a freshman” during spring practice. He’s competing at Will. Moultry will wear Carl Lawson’s No. 55 this fall and is expected to see the field despite being a freshman and not enrolling early. He signed as the nation’s third-best linebacker recruit and brings a strong pass-rush to the team.

In previous seasons, Auburn’s linebacker corps has been a steel curtain that’s led the way or a flaw that opposing offenses have exposed. The Tigers’ season seems to go with how the linebackers play. Last year, the trio of Williams, Davis and Williams helped Auburn rank seventh in the nation in total defense. That mark came with a trip to the Sugar Bowl. What will 2017 have in store?

Brandon Miller

Quarterbacks and Receivers

Newcomers

Running Backs and Offensive Line

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