Auburn football: Looking at the Tigers' linebackers for 2014

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 11, 2014 

Cassanova McKinzy moved from weakside to middle linebacker this spring. The junior will begin the fall at the top of the depth chart at Mike.

TODD J. VAN EMST — Auburn University

Editor's note: The 2013 season is in the books. Any underclassmen eligible for the NFL draft have decided whether to return to school or pursue a pro career. And national signing day has passed. With that in mind, Auburn beat writer Ryan Black breaks down the team's 2014 roster, going position-by-position and giving his take on each spot's future. The series continues with the Tigers' linebackers.

Who's Staying: Cassanova McKinzy, junior: Started all 14 games; team-high 75 tackles (43 solo, 32 assisted), 8.0 tackles for loss, one interception, one pass breakup, 6 quarterback hurries

Kris Frost, junior: Played in 14 games (one start); 59 tackles (33 solo, 26 assisted), 6.0 TFLs, one PBU, 3 QBHs, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles

Anthony Swain, junior: Played in all 14 games; 26 tackles (19 solo, seven assisted), one TFL, one PBU, one fumble recovery

JaViere Mitchell, sophomore: Played in 13 games; 13 tackles (eight solo, five assisted), one TFL

Justin Garrett, junior: Appeared in two games; four tackles (two solo, two assisted), one TFL

Kenny Flowers, junior: Appeared in 13 games; four tackles (one solo, three assisted)

Cameron Toney, redshirt freshman: Redshirted during 2013 season

Who's Leaving: Jake Holland: Played in all 14 games (13 starts); 46 tackles (15 solo, 31 assisted), one TFL, 0.5 sack, two PBUs, two QBHs, fumble recovery

Who's Coming In: Deshaun Davis: 138 tackles, 15 TFLs, six forced fumbles (Numbers from junior season at Vigor High School in Mobile, Ala.; sat out senior season with knee injury)

Tre Williams: 119 tackles; school's all-time career leader in tackles (Numbers from past season at St. Paul's Episcopal School in Mobile, Ala.)

Outlook: One-half of Auburn's two linebacker scheme is set.

After starting all 14 contests in the Tigers' run to the BCS championship game at weakside linebacker, McKinzy will return to that role this fall.

Middle linebacker isn't quite as settled, but after splitting time with Holland last year, Frost will open spring practice at the top of the depth chart.

Swain, a rising junior, served as McKinzy's backup last season. While he'll be hard-pressed to move past McKinzy into the starting lineup, Swain should continue to provide quality reps when he's on the field.

The rest of the unit is unproven.

Mitchell, a third-year sophomore, has produced when given the opportunity. Obvious as it may sound, the key for him will be staying away from the injury bug, which he's had a problem avoiding since joining the team in 2012.

Garrett can relate.

The Tucker, Ga., native was a breakout performer last spring, being named the MVP of the A-Day game. That came when he was still at the Star position, though. Once the fall arrived, he was beset by nagging foot injuries. While he was sidelined, Robenson Therezie swooped in, took the starting job at Star and didn't relinquish it for the remainder of the year.

With Therezie entrenched at the spot, Garrett was moved to linebacker. With the foot injuries still an issue, he was a non-factor, tallying just four tackles in two games before sitting out the rest of the season. His talent is undeniable, though. If he can stay healthy, don't be surprised if the junior makes Ellis Johnson think long and hard about penciling his name in the starting lineup.

After spending last season on special teams, Flowers will look to make a name for himself starting with spring practice. The same goes for Toney, who redshirted in 2013.

And don't forget about the two incoming freshmen. Both Williams and Davis are tackling machines.

Williams has protypical size for a linebacker and will make a push for playing time immediately. The only question about Davis will be how quickly he's able to get reacclimated to playing full speed. He didn't play a down last fall, forced into a spectator role after tearing his ACL prior to the season.

Given how crowded the depth chart will be, Davis could be ticketed for a redshirt in the coming season, returning to full strength and a chance to showcase himself in the spring of 2015.

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