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, starting with the strong side.
- Darrell Williams (senior)
- Chandler Wooten (sophomore)
- Richard McBryde (junior)
- Michael Harris (freshman — summer arrival)
Answers from spring practice
Is Darrell Williams now the No. 2 linebacker for Auburn?
Auburn lists three starting linebackers, but it rarely has three on the field at the same time. Against the typical modern college offense, defenses need a nickel back, and that usually comes at the expense of a third linebacker. Deshaun Davis was the unquestioned leader last season at middle linebacker, and senior Tre’ Williams took a lot of reps when healthy.
When Auburn jumps into the nickel package this season, Darrell Williams will line up next to Davis. Williams is the most all-around linebacker on Auburn’s roster and has been for the last two seasons. He can rush the passer, drop back in coverage and stop the run without any drop-off. Montavious Atkinson will likely be the No. 3, but Williams showed in the spring that he will be on the field a lot.
Is Chandler Wooten ready to take the next step?
With so much experience coming from three senior linebackers, Auburn used spring practice to get more reps for its next wave of talent at the position. On the outside, Chandler Wooten took advantage of those opportunities. Wooten can play weakside or strongside linebacker, and he got plenty of action next to the Tigers’ leaders.
“Chandler is working a lot, he’s mixing it up a lot,” Williams said. “[Linebackers coach Travis Williams] likes to see who guys can play with, what combinations he can work out better. [Wooten and K.J. Britt], they’re a lot of help to us this year. It will be fun.”
Number to know
5: Williams has had 5 quarterback hurries in each of the last two seasons for the Tigers. In 2017, that ranked tied for third on the team behind Jeff Holland and Nick Coe. Williams had as many quarterback hurries as starting defensive linemen Marlon Davidson and Dontavius Russell. He is a real weapon on blitzes.
Questions for fall
Who will rotate with Williams at strongside linebacker?
Auburn will stick with Davis and Britt on the inside this season, with Williams and Atkinson lining up next to them in the standard two-linebacker sets. But what will Auburn do when it wants to rotate the backups on the outside?
Wooten has the ability to get some serious playing time off the bench in 2018. Richard McBryde, who hasn’t been heard from much, has an extra year of experience. Wooten and Britt look like the next great linebacker duo at Auburn, so the edge has to go to the Georgia native. However, nothing will be set in stone until Week 1 against Washington.
Will Michael Harris see the field in 2018?
Harris, one of Auburn’s newest linebackers, has the look of a potential star at the strongside linebacker position. He has blazing speed for a linebacker and a high motor that would make him effective in pass coverage and pass rushing — perfect for the Money role at Auburn.
The Tigers have a lot of veterans at linebacker, though, and playing time might be difficult to come by this season. Harris could make an impact on special teams, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him take a redshirt. Either way, he has a college-ready game that could make this decision a tough one for Auburn’s coaching staff.