Auburn graduates a significant amount of experience on the defensive side of the ball this season.
Jonathan Jones, Justin Garrett, Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost play their final game next week at Legion Field in the Birmingham Bowl with more than 90 starts between them.
The Tigers will have a number of underclassman vying for their starting spots, but an equally important question is who will step up in the locker room?
A group of Auburn defenders met with the media to preview the Birmingham Bowl last week and already had a name in mind. Their consensus pick to be a team leader in 2016 was sophomore linebacker Tre’ Williams.
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“He’s going to be the leader of the team—the defense next year, so I got faith in him,” linebacker Justin Garrett said. “He’s a big-time playmaker. He started a few games this year and could have started every game. He just pushes us to be better as a younger guy, so it’s going to be good next year to see him take over the defense.”
Williams was one of the top recruits in the country at linebacker out of the 2014 recruiting class of 2014. The five-star prospect picked Auburn over Alabama and hasn’t looked back.
He’s played in all but one game since stepping on to campus (due to an injury) and has four starts.
Garrett credited the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder’s fiery nature for driving his teammates to improve this season. It’s a quality that will serve the sophomore well in the future.
“He’s a vocal guy at practice,” Garrett said. “Sometimes I have to tell him to calm down, it’s my turn to make the calls and stuff like that, but he puts a lot of accountability on himself and he wants to push everybody and guys respond to him, and guys appreciate guys like him because he works hard every day.”
Fellow linebacker Kris Frost is eager to see Williams thrive in an expanded role next season.
“He’s ready now,” Frost said. “He’s done a great job of not only being a leader but also playing multiple positions. He’s always in good position when he plays and he’s going to be a great one to come for two more years or one more year, however long he’s going to be here. I’ll be watching.”