How Auburn football’s (defensive) quarterback of the future improved through injury this spring
AUBURN, Ala. — Sean White wasn’t the only quarterback limited by injury this spring for Auburn football. In the eyes of linebackers coach Travis Williams, a future signal-caller on defense spent a lot of his camp watching on the sidelines.
True freshman linebacker K.J. Britt had a much different situation than White. He missed all of spring ball while recovering from a right leg injury. But Auburn has big plans for the former 4-star prospect from Oxford, Ala.
“Once he gets healthy, we’re looking at him more like an inside linebacker, Mike ‘backer for us,” Williams said. “He could be a guy that could quarterback the defense because he’s smart and does some things. He’s got really good short-area quickness, and we’ll just see his growth, see how fast he can grow, and see where it leads from there.”
Britt enrolled at Auburn early, and he practiced with the Tigers on campus before their trip to the Sugar Bowl. But Britt had a procedure on his leg between the end of the 2016 season and the start of 2017 camp.
Still, Williams sees a lot of potential in Britt. He said the lessons Britt learned in spring ball will go a long way.
“He’s a smart kid. He has an advantage just being in the meetings,” said Williams, himself a former Auburn linebacker. “He’s going to have six months before the other guys get here. He’ll be able to learn the defense, sit in every meeting. … And he’s going to be able to quarterback the defense.”
K.J. Britt (33) is learning the language of the Auburn defense. (Wade Rackley/Auburn Athletics)
Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele had a simple mission for Britt during spring practice — pick up the system now so he can stay on schedule.
“Learn the language,” Steele said. “Learn the language. That’s probably the biggest thing. Learn the language. If you can learn the language, that’s a huge benefit just to know.”
Much like a quarterback to the offense, linebackers can benefit greatly from “mental reps.” While they physically can’t participate in plays, they can watch, learn and adapt to what’s happening with their teammates.
Williams can’t wait to see Britt translate it to the field.
“I’m excited to get my hands on him, see him run around and see him hit people,” Williams said. “One thing we know, we know he can hit. Just got to get him in and get him into the fastball of the college ball, SEC ball. He’s a smart kid, and he’s picking up the system. He’s doing board work and different things like that.”
While Williams wouldn’t speculate on a timetable for Britt’s return last month, the freshman made visible progress this spring. He opened camp on crutches but didn’t have them by the final weeks of practice.
Auburn’s 2017 linebackers include upperclassmen Tre’ Williams, Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson. The future of the position, though, looks a lot like Britt — Williams’ ideal Auburn linebacker.
“When you’re looking for linebackers, you first want to look for tough, tough young men, and good young men, because I understand how Auburn was built,” Williams said. “K.J. fits that mold. … And he will knock a hole in you, too. He gets there with bad intentions.
“You cut on the film and it’s like, ‘Whoa.’ You look at the first clip, it gets you to the second clip, the third clip. Then when you meet him, you’re like, ‘You know what, this young man is an Auburn Tigers man.’ He’s awesome.”