AUBURN, Ala. — Heading into spring practice, Auburn football already had a good-sized list of potential replacements for Carl Lawson at Buck — Jeff Holland, Nick Coe, Paul James III and future incoming freshman Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant.
But the Tigers opened spring camp with an extra addition into the race in Tre’ Threat, a sophomore linebacker who mostly played on special teams in 2016. The change has worked for him, as teammates and coaches say he’s a perfect fit at the pass-rushing role.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s doing good and also from the coaches’ standpoint, they feel like he’s doing a good job,” junior linebacker Darrell Williams said. “Especially with that transition. … they say that was kind of more the type position he played in high school. So he’s a natural at that.”
SPRING PRACTICE: Gus Malzahn tells experienced Auburn ‘no one has arrived’
Threat excelled at rushing the passer at Spanish Fort (Ala.) High School, recording 26 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 29 quarterback hurries during his career with the state title-winning Toros.
But the Tigers brought him to the Plains to be a linebacker. He showed versatility as a reserve, training at all three linebacker positions for the Tigers.
With all three starting linebackers returning for 2017 and a strong class at the position coming into the fold this offseason, coaches thought Threat would have more value at his old high school position.
“What has happened in this league is about 75 percent of your snaps are played in nickel or dime,” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “So we have a three-linebacker scheme, and we rep three linebackers. But then when you get into game-planning and practicing, then it’s cut down to two linebackers and sometimes even one.
“He played it in high school so it’s kind of natural to him and it gives him ability rather than when we go nickel, now that’s one less linebacker on the field, so somebody’s not getting reps.”
— Auburn Football (@AuburnFootball) February 3, 2016
Threat’s experience at linebacker adds a new schematic advantage for Auburn at the Buck position. The sophomore has the ability to drop back in pass coverage, which would make it easier for the Tigers to dial up more exotic types of blitzes.
“He worked all last year on his hips and getting into the hook and curl drops,” junior linebacker Deshaun Davis said. “I feel like as a Buck, it’s going to make our defense better when we can drop a defensive lineman and send a nickel just to disguise. We can really have confidence in him to do that because he’s done it in the past.”
SPRING PRACTICE: DE Marlon Davidson feels like he ‘can run down a leopard’
The Tigers haven’t eased Threat along with the move, either.
He lined up as the second-team Buck behind Holland during the first and fourth practices of the season, when media members viewed 11-on-11 drills.
“Of course, it’s a sudden change from going from inside linebacker to the Buck position, but (defensive line coach Rodney Garner) is a great coach, and I know he’s going to transform him,” senior linebacker Tre’ Williams said. “He’s excited. He played it in high school, and he’s ready to go.”