AUBURN, Ala. Ellis Johnson didnt hold back.
Cassanova McKinzy hasnt lived up to Johnsons expectations since spring practice, and a nagging hip injury is to blame.
Frankly, Cass hasn't had a very good spring, Auburns defensive coordinator said Tuesday.
Around the third practice, McKinzy bruised his tailbone really bad. It affected him the next 6-7 practices, Johnson said. In some, McKinzy didnt practice at all. In others, he wasnt able to go full-speed. Things have finally started to turn around in the last two sessions, and Johnson said the junior linebacker should be fine going forward.
Still, the injury was the last thing McKinzy needed as he attempted to transition from weakside to middle linebacker.
It was a big hampering. It set him back quite a bit, Johnson said. The first three practices, he really moved into it really easily. When I first got here, I thought he was a Mike linebacker but he wouldn't talk. He didn't communicate well at the line of scrimmage and things of that nature.
Because Kris Frost picked up on the defensive calls quicker and then-senior Jake Holland had more experience Johnson elected to put McKinzy at the weakside last season. He flourished there, recording a team-high 75 tackles. Once the spring began, however, Johnson put his plan into action of flipping Frost to the outside and shifting McKinzy inside.
McKinzy hasnt been available to speak with reporters this spring, but his fellow projected starter said hes coming along well.
Hes doing good with the checks and everything, Frost said. Hes given me feedback at Will linebacker and Im giving him feedback on middle linebacker. Its interchangeable. It wasnt that much of a jump. Were just making sure we know everything were doing. Hes doing great, though.
One positive aspect of his scheme, Johnson said, is that the theres not a lot of difference between the Mike and Will spots.
On the other hand, meaningful reps McKinzy could have had this spring cant be made up now.
His transition to that position was really effortless. It was easy, Johnson said. I just wish he hadn't missed so much time, because I think fundamentally he hasn't improved. And he's still a relatively inexperienced linebacker who would have gotten a lot better with spring.