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Young Auburn linebackers pushing veterans for playing time

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com
Auburn's Cassanova McKinzy (8) and Kris Frost (17) stop Texas A&M running back Brandon Williams late in the fourth quarter with the Tigers behind. The Aggies held on to win 41-38.  11.08.14
ROBIN TRIMARCHI rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com Auburn's Cassanova McKinzy (8) and Kris Frost (17) stop Texas A&M running back Brandon Williams late in the fourth quarter with the Tigers behind. The Aggies held on to win 41-38. 11.08.14 rtrimarchi@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s two most experienced defenders haven’t lost their starting spot, but they haven’t solidified them either.

Senior linebackers Cassanova McKinzy, and Kris Frost are listed on the Tigers’ first depth chart of the season released Tuesday with “OR” listed next to their names, and sophomore Tre’ Williams listed as co-starter.

Fellow senior linebacker Justin Garrett is listed as the other starter. 

Coach Gus Malzahn addressed McKinzy’s and Frost’s place on the depth chart in his Tuesday press conference.

“The great thing about what Will (Muschamp) does is competition every day and anytime you have competition it brings out the best in everybody,” Malzahn said. “The thing about it, we do have information from the older the guys because they’ve played a lot of football but at the same time they’re learning a new defense. So like I said, you’ll see multiple guys this first game.”

On Sunday, first-year defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said he expects all four linebackers will play while declining to reveal starters.

Muschamp hinted that the team’s final practices leading up to Saturday’s game at the Georgia Dome against Louisville could determine the players who will start.

“That decision won't be made until later in the week,” Muschamp said. “Guys have to practice well. That's what we need to do.”

In showing a willingness to go with Williams over McKinzy or Frost, Muschamp is showing he’s not afraid of shaking things up.

McKinzy has started 26 of the Tigers’ last 27 games going back to his sophomore year. Last season, he was the team’s second-leading tackler with 91 tackles, 60 solo, and 11 for a loss.

Frost has been in the team’s rotation as a linebacker since 2013 as well. He started 12 games last year with 87 tackles, 10 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.

What Williams lacks in experience, he makes up for in potential. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound sophomore was one of the consensus top linebackers in the class of 2014. The Mobile, Alabama product graduated as St. Paul’s Episcopal High School career tackle leader, and was a standout in multiple sports.

“Well he’s a smart guy,” Malzahn said, of Williams. “Coach Muschamp has him knowing both those positions and they rotated a lot in fall camp and I think you’ll see the same thing the first game.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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