AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn football mainly stuck to a three-man linebacker rotation of Tre’ Williams, Darrell Williams and Deshaun Davis in 2016. But Tre’ Williams — the oldest of the trio – says those veterans won’t be alone in getting playing time this fall.
Auburn signed a strong linebacker class in the 2017 recruiting cycle, with T.D. Moultry, K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten joining the squad. And while Auburn isn’t lacking returning experience at linebacker, Williams already knows the next wave of talent at the position can make an immediate impact.
“Those guys came in willing to work, willing to put in for the team whatever they can, whenever they can,” Williams said Monday after Auburn’s first practice of fall camp. “I know Coach T-Will, he’s going to play those guys just because they work hard. So if they continue to build and continue to work and listen to Coach T-Will, they’ll be fine.”
PRACTICE REPORT: Position changes, first look at depth charts highlight Day 1
“Coach T-Will,” Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams, has a deep group at his disposal this fall. The two Williamses and Davis all have starting experience. Montavious Atkinson emerged as a starter-quality talent in the spring, and fellow junior Richard McBryde provides valued depth at middle linebacker.
Auburn mostly sticks to a two-linebacker formation on defense thanks to the spread offense, which demands an extra defensive back in coverage at nickel. That means snaps should be harder to come by this fall for the young Tigers linebackers.
But Tre’ Williams thinks they are up to the task.
“I feel like they’ll be ready after camp now,” Williams said. “They’ll be able to help us out this season for sure.”
Auburn split practice Monday, giving the veterans the first half and the freshmen the second half. Coach Gus Malzahn felt that approach was important, because while Auburn returns a lot of talent in 2017, he expects the newcomers to contribute right away.
“The second part of practice was so we could focus on our young guys and really slow down a little bit,” Malzahn said. “There’s quite a few of those guys that are going to need to help us on Saturdays. It gave us a chance as a coaching staff to really slow down and work with those guys.”
Williams specifically mentioned Moultry and Britt.
Moultry, who spent the entire first practice at linebacker, arrived at Auburn over the summer. He was a 5-star recruit, according to 247Sports, and was highly coveted by many big-name programs for his tackling and pass-rushing prowess. The Birmingham, Ala., native is the first 5-star linebacker signee for Auburn since Williams.
“T.D. is going to be a real good player,” Williams said. “He’s young and like all of us, he’s getting used to the culture and getting used to college still. Once he figures it out, he’s going to be a really good player.”
Britt was full speed Monday afternoon after being unable to participate in spring practices as an early enrollee. The middle linebacker recovered from a right leg injury earlier this year, but even being hurt, he was able to pick up valuable experience in the spring.
“Him being here in the spring means he got that step ahead,” Williams said. “He’s already been in the playbook and he already knows the plays. He already got that foot in the door. He didn’t really practice in the spring, but now we get to see what all he’s learned, and he’s going to come along as well.”
Combined with Wooten, who was a personal favorite of the coaching staff during spring practices, the Tigers’ star-studded linebacker class sounds like its already off on the right foot.
The young trio will learn behind the veteran trio. The senior Williams said he is more than happy to teach them everything he knows — even if it means fewer snaps in 2017.
“That’s very important, because it lets those guys know that I’m no better than you,” Williams said. “I’m willing to help you. If you’re putting in work, I see that. I want to let those guys know that I’m here for you whenever.”