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Auburn linebacker Freeman shows strength at weak-side position

AUBURN, Ala. — Eltoro Freeman’s stay with Auburn’s second-team defense turned out to be a short one.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer began working with the Tigers’ first unit at weak-side linebacker a week ago after starting the spring backing up Craig Stevens on the strong side. Freeman is splitting time at weak side with sophomore Spencer Pybus.

“(It’s) not for good,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “We’re certainly just experimenting. ... We’re always looking to figure a way to get our best 11 out there.”’

Freeman has played on the weak side throughout his career, a run-stuffing position he feels better suits his game.

“At Sam (strong side), I was outside the box, so I really couldn’t attack no gaps,” Freeman said. “Linebacker inside the box, now I can really attack the gaps and play football.”

Players have marveled at Freeman’s talent this spring, expecting big things for the sophomore once things click mentally. His teammates and coaches claim to have seen that light come on in the last few days.

“I’m getting real close,” Freeman said. “Coach Roof told me the same thing in the locker room. He said, ‘Eltoro, I see it,’ and I was like, “Yes, sir.’ ”

Jemison makes switch

After missing last season with a broken leg, Marcus Jemison has moved from safety to linebacker.

Roof came to the redshirt freshman with the idea of switching positions, needing extra bodies at linebacker and wanting somebody with quickness and a willingness to stick his nose into the action.

“He’s the kind of person who wants to come up and hit somebody,” linebacker Josh Bynes said.

It’s part of the long road back for Jemison, who broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle in a freak injury during two-a-days last August. Making matters worse, his mother spent the year recovering from cancer.

“I told her I wanted to come (home) and I didn’t feel like playing football anymore,” Jemison said. “She wouldn’t let me come home and I didn’t have a car, so I couldn’t. There was no way I could get there. If I had a car, I probably would have.”

Jemison and his mother have had strong recoveries, although he said his leg still isn’t 100 percent, especially when he pushes off on it.

The switch to linebacker, a position he hasn’t played since his sophomore year of high school, is an ongoing process. He wants to bulk up from 202 pounds to around 220 for the start of the season and still has plenty of playbook study to do, something that was apparent during Saturday’s scrimmage.

“I was lining up wrong but was still making it to the ball,” Jemison said. “So coach was like, ‘Imagine if you were lined up in the right position.’ ”

Quick hits

Defensive end Antoine Carter had to be carted off the field during practice Sunday after injuring his right leg. Coaches declined to comment on his status, but the junior didn’t put any weight on it before leaving the field.

Safety Zac Etheridge (shoulder) has ditched the non-contact orange jersey but is still held back from going live to the ground. Etheridge had offseason surgery to clean up the AC joint of his left shoulder. He said it’s at about 80 percent right now and should be ready for A-Day on April 18.

Wide receiver Montez Billings was not dressed for Sunday’s practice, watching in street clothes while his teammates participated in drills. He has an undisclosed injury.

H-back Mario Fannin has resumed practicing after turning an ankle and wearing a walking boot last week.

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