Auburn football: Sophomore Khari Harding shifts from safety to weakside linebacker

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comApril 1, 2014 

Auburn's Khari Harding tosses a ball with teammates at the Georgia Dome on the eve of the SEC Championship game in December. After playing at safety as a true freshman, Harding has moved to weakside linebacker this spring.


AUBURN, Ala.Khari Harding didn’t see the field much last season.

As a then-freshman safety, Harding only appeared in three games — against Western Carolina, Alabama and Missouri, respectively. For the season, he registered just one tackle. But a position move this spring could be exactly what the Oklahoma native needs to garner more playing time.

Harding has begun to work at weakside linebacker behind starter Kris Frost, getting his first reps at his new spot during Tuesday’s practice.

Frost did his best to make Harding feel at home among the linebackers.

“I’ve been working at both positions and actually helping Khari moving there,” he said. “Just standing behind him and making sure he’s in the right place and everything.”

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn already knows what to expect from Harding — a defender more than happy to lower the boom on a ballcarrier.

“He's a big hitter. You can see that off his recruiting film,” Malzahn said. “And he's made some good hits so far.”

It’s a mentality that should serve him well, Frost said. And it doesn’t hurt that Harding already has the perfect size and skill set to play linebacker.

“He’s fast. He moves well from playing safety,” Frost said of the 6-foot, 224-pound sophomore. “His drops are really good. It’s good seeing him there.”

It might not be a permanent relocation, though. Malzahn said it was simply an example of the “mixing and matching” the coaching staff likes to experiment with for multiple reasons; one being to find the spot that fits a player best; and secondly, in an attempt to bolster depth at thin positions.

Wherever he ends up, Malzahn was certain that Harding has “the ability to help” the Tigers when called upon.

“We have him at safety, playing him at some linebacker,” the coach said. “We'll see what happens at the end of the spring.”

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