The middle of Auburn's defense was anchored by senior leadership in 2018. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has to find replacements for that leadership but doesn't expect any drop off for a unit that produced 231 tackles.
Gone are Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson from last year's linebacking corps. Davis led the team in tackles with 112 and was the vocal leader of the defense. Williams was tied for second in total stops with 74 and Atkinson added 41.
All of that production will certainly be missed, especially with Auburnís returning linebackers having only 40 combined tackles.
The Tigers will count on two-year backup K.J. Britt to replace Davis at middle linebacker. Britt might not be the same vocal leader that Davis was, but the rising junior promises to let his actions on the field lead the group.
Britt led by example in the spring and is expected to continue to be a mentor to the other linebackers like Chandler Wooten when fall camp opens in August. Wooten spent the spring behind Britt at middle linebacker and with the first-team at strongside when the Tigers used a three-linebacker set.
Auburn signed five-star linebacker Owen Pappoe during the early signing period, and he participated in spring drills. Steele and position coach Travis Williams were very pleased with his progress and production in the spring.
Pappoe will battle Zakoby McClain for playing time on the weakside. As a freshman last season, McClain appeared in all 13 games, finishing with four total tackles and a pass breakup.