Kris Frost became a defacto spokesperson for Auburn’s defense as the team struggled last season. The Tigers often relied on the linebacker to be the player’s sole voice at the podium.
Frost excelled in the role answering questions about his team’s ongoing struggles thoughtfully while never providing opposing teams with a juicy sound bite.
With Frost graduating alongside a number of Auburn’s experienced defenders, the team needs someone to be a reliable public representative for the team.
Tre Williams put together an impressive audition tape Tuesday when he was the first player to speak following Auburn’s first practice of the spring.
Frost and fellow former Auburn linebacker Justin Garrett identified Williams on their way out the door as someone they thought was ready for a leadership role.
“He’s going to the leader of the defense next year,” Garrett said. “He’s going to be the leader of the team—the defense next year, so I got faith in him. 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 made it clear in his session with reporters Tuesday that it’s a role he covets.
“I do (want to be that guy),” Williams said. “ I watched them do it. Growing up, I watched a lot of great linebackers do it. They took ownership not only of the defense but they also had part of the team. And that's just the responsibility that I'm trying to take at Auburn.”
Williams went back to the word “responsibility” time and time again in discussing how he’s embracing his expanded role in Auburn’s defense.
“It's a responsibility I've got to take care of, and I will,” Williams said. “I've got a lot of people behind me. I've got the whole defense and we're all going to do this thing.”
Beyond an important leadership role, Williams will be called on to raise his production on the field as new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele tries to replace all three of the team’s starters at the position.
Auburn’s depth at the already thin position took another hit Tuesday when coach Gus Malzahn announced linebacker Javiere Mitchell planned on leaving football beyond.
Last year, Williams had 51 tackles (26 solo) with four tackles for a loss. One of his best games of the season came late in the year against Alabama when he was credited for eight tackles.
Of the Tigers’ returning linebackers four combined career starts, Williams has three of them.
“I got a lot of shoes to fill,” Williams said with a smile.
As central Williams is to the defense’s goals this year, Williams knows he can’t do it alone. He excitedly discussed the improvements made by younger linebackers Jeff Holland and Richard McBryde to make an overall point about the importance of guys stepping up this spring.
“We’re all going to eat this year,” Williams said. “We're going to try to be a great defense and it starts with everybody.”