AUBURN, Ala. — Kenny Flowers didn't know he had it in him.
But his teammates did.
The junior linebacker from Lilburn, Ga., was arguably the biggest surprise at Auburn's A-Day game Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“I didn’t have too great of a spring,” Flowers said afterward. “I did a lot of improving, you know, but I didn’t see this coming.”
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With seven tackles — 2.5 of them for a loss — Flowers was selected as the defensive most valuable player by media members.
Flowers started the day with the second-team squad in white jerseys but flipped to the blue team at the start of the second quarter.
The junior wasted no time in cutting through the heart of the second-team offensive line to sack backup quarterback Jeremy Johnson, later recording a pair of tackles in the backfield.
“It was really exciting,” Flowers said. “I haven’t been a big factor to this defense, but I’m happy about (the MVP award).”
While Flowers might have shocked himself, his teammates said they knew the linebacker was capable of making a contribution to an Auburn defense looking for more depth in 2014.
“We knew we had it in him,” safety Johnathan Ford said. “Kenny came out and showcased his skills. He did an excellent job out there today."
Ford said Flowers had a “great” spring working at both middle and weakside linebacker. Flowers, who transferred to Auburn from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas last season, appeared in 13 games for the Tigers in 2013 but recorded only four tackles in a limited role.
Flowers said his lack of playing time was because of mental adjustments he needed to make to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 scheme.
“Jumping into all of this was a big move,” Flowers said. “I had a lot of learning to do — a lot of mental preparation, getting to know the defense. The linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. I needed to learn a lot, and I wasn’t at the mental level last year.”
Now, Flowers’ teammates believe he has learned what is needed to succeed.
“We expect a lot out Kenny Flowers as a Mike,” Star Robenson Therezie said. “They might move him to Will sometimes, but he’s getting great with both the positions. I feel like today was a great day for him to open up and just fly because he had a great spring.”
Flowers hopes his A-Day performance — along with his versatility — can propel him to more playing time next season behind starters Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy.
“Last year, I played Will, and this year, I played Mike,” Flowers said. “Anywhere I can fit in our defense, I’ll play.”
Cornerback Jonathon Mincy, a returning starter, has played alongside a wide range of linebackers during his time at Auburn.
In his estimation, Flowers’ play Saturday represents the improvement the Tigers have made at every level of the defense this spring.
“We expect that from everybody in this playbook,” Mincy said. “Coach Johnson is going to put every player in a position to make plays. Today, (Flowers) was just on it. That’s something that you enjoy seeing out of your linebackers.”