Editor's note: There's still one more game left in Auburn's 2014 season. But it's never too early looking ahead, right? In that vein, we're starting a series looking at each position on the team and how those spots might look like next year — taking into account that some players may decide to leave early for the NFL as well as the possibility that some prospects committed for 2015 may end up elsewhere. The guessing is all part of the fun, though. The series continues by taking a look at the Tigers' linebackers.
Who's Staying:Cassanova McKinzy
Who's Coming In:
Note that Williams, McBryde, Atkinson and Sullivans are commits and could still change their minds prior to national signing day. While McKinzy and Frost have both submitted their names to the NFL Draft Advisory Board, we are anticipating they will return to Auburn for their senior seasons..
Outlook: As noted above, Auburn is set to return every linebacker on this year's roster assuming McKinzy and Frost don't toss their names into the NFL draft. And looking forward to 2015, this will be one of the most interesting positions to watch. With the Tigers' transition from Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme to Will Muschamp's 4-3 (which will also have some 3-4 elements tossed in), depth will become a necessity.
One has to assume McKinzy and Frost will retain two of those starting spots. But who will be the third? Mitchell, Swain and Flowers are career backups, and haven't really show much to think they'll move into the lineup simply because of a coordinator change. That leaves two Class of 2014 signees: Tre' Williams and Davis. Williams has played in every game this year, recording 13 tackles and being credited with a quarterback hurry. Davis, on the other hand, has redshirted while continuing to rehab from an ACL injury suffered during his senior season at Vigor High School in Mobile, Ala.
So those are two possibilities for the third linebacker spot.
Then there are the four noted commits above. Darrell Williams is arguably the most talented of the bunch, starring at state powerhouse Hoover High School. But assuming they all sign, McBryde, Atkinson and Sullivan would get their shots, too. (That is, if McBryde, Atkinson and Sullivan actually end up at linebacker; all were recruited to play Star, the hybrid linebacker/safety position that will disappear under Muschamp.)
But there's another player not listed above who's in a similar predicament to those three potential signees: Justin Garrett. The junior has shifted back and forth between weakside linebacker and Star the last two seasons, and given his size (6-foot-1 and nearly 230 pounds), one has to think he'll likely play linebacker next year.
Finally, there is Jeffrey Holland. One of the nation's top uncommitted players, the four-star prospect out of Jacksonville, Fla., has had Auburn in his top two for quite a while. The other finalist? Florida. One has to think given Muschamp's prior relationship with Holland when he was still with the Gators — coupled with his new role as the Tigers' defensive coordinator — makes Auburn the odds-on favorite here.
If Holland indeed becomes a Tiger, don't be surprised if he pushes for a starting spot immediately.