Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.
The last three days this week will focus on the linebackers, continuing with the middle.
- Deshaun Davis (senior)
- K.J. Britt (sophomore)
Answers from spring practice
What is Deshaun Davis’ focus for his senior season?
On the field, no one is more important to Auburn’s defense than senior inside linebacker Deshaun Davis. The Alabama native makes the pre-snap reads and checks. He quarterbacks the defense, or — in his words — is “actually the defensive coordinator.” (Davis also says Kevin Steele “just gets paid.”) And Auburn’s on-field defensive coordinator wants to be even faster to the ball after leading the team in tackles last season.
“I want to play around 230,” Davis said in the spring. “Last year, I floated between 238 and 241. Before practice today I weighed in at 231. My goal is to try to get down to 227 and gain about three or four pounds of muscle over the summer so I can be a solid 230 and be able to fly around.”
How much will Auburn prep K.J. Britt to be the middle linebacker of the future?
No job on the defense is more secure than Davis’ at middle linebacker. So, this spring, the Tigers spent a lot of time focusing on developing his replacement for the future. K.J. Britt played in all 14 games last season on defense and special teams, and Auburn made sure he had plenty of reps with the first-team defense in camp.
Britt was primarily a downhill-first type of linebacker last season, but teammates said he looked more like an all-around type of player this spring. If he can combine that level of hard-nosed physical play with the quick instincts of someone such as Davis, Auburn’s defense will be in good hands in 2019 and beyond.
Number to know
+23: Davis led Auburn last season with 82 tackles, which was by far the most on the team. The next-closest player was safety Tray Matthews, who finished with 59. The next-closest linebacker, Darrell Williams, had 57.
Questions for fall
How much more can Davis improve?
Davis has two strong seasons as a starter under his belt, and he has been one of the Tigers’ keys to a defensive turnaround under Steele. He is a sure tackler who can provide some extra help in creating havoc in the backfield — he had 6 ½ tackles for loss and 3 ½ sacks last season.
How will Davis build on those numbers? He might not have the well-known reputation right now, but Davis has a great shot at being an All-SEC linebacker this fall. Keep an eye on his stats this season, as he has promised fans a big final season on the Plains.
How will Auburn handle the backup reps this season?
Auburn will have to strike a good balance at middle linebacker this season. Davis is good enough and important enough to play every meaningful snap in 2018. But Auburn needs to get Britt more opportunities to see the field in non-garbage time situations, because it’ll be his show to run in 2019.
How Auburn provides depth behind Davis and Britt — or if it does at all — will also be interesting to watch. Both of Auburn’s freshman linebackers, Zakoby McClain and Michael Harris, look like outside players. Top-10 2019 commitment Owen Pappoe does as well. Reloading the middle of the defense will be key after Davis finishes his career.