AUBURN, Ala. — One of Auburn football’s biggest question marks heading into the 2017 season is how it will replace the production of Carl Lawson, the NFL-bound defensive star who led the team with 9 sacks last season.
Part of the solution for that sack problem might be a player brand-new to Lawson’s position of Buck — sophomore Tre’ Threat.
According to senior defensive end Paul James III, Threat had the most sacks of any Auburn player in drills leading up to the A-Day spring game last Saturday.
“Me and Tre’ talk a lot,” James said. “He looks real good. Matter of fact, he was leading in sacks throughout the 14 practices that we did. He looked pretty good today, too.”
Threat moved from inside linebacker to Buck — an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid that specializes in rushing the passer — at the beginning of the spring.
While Auburn recruited Threat as a natural linebacker out of Spanish Fort (Ala.) High School, Threat was not unfamiliar with requirements of a Buck.
“It’s probably similar to what he did in high school, because he was an on-the-line outside linebacker type in high school,” defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. “So putting him there is more of a comfort zone versus being in the box where he has to do more keying and diagnosing with the line. I think he’s done a really good job this spring, too.”
Threat was the Buck for the White (second-team) defense during A-Day. He’ll continue to compete with projected starter Jeff Holland and the versatile James for playing time.
The Tigers want a deep rotation on the defensive line, and Threat could allow them to go as much as 3-deep with quality talent.
Coaches say Threat is a “coach pleaser” in practice, and that drives the young linebacker to quick improvement as he hones his skills at a new position.
“He’s hard on himself,” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “He’s as hard on himself as any coach would ever be, because he is a perfectionist. He doesn’t want to disappoint his teammates; he doesn’t want to disappoint his coaches. He’s got a certain soul about him that kind of makes him fun to coach in that way.”
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Steele said Threat’s perfectionist nature can lead to too much discouragement, especially for a player just in his second year.
However, Threat’s natural ability for the position and attitude shined through in a stat-filled spring.
“You got to go learn to play the next play,” Steele said. “He’s got something about him. He brings something to the table. He’s a good energy guy, he plays hard, he can set an edge, he’s powerful and he has a knack for pass rush.”