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Post-spring projections: Auburn’s linebackers

Auburn linebacker Tre Williams awaits the snap on A-Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, April 9, 2016.
Auburn linebacker Tre Williams awaits the snap on A-Day at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday, April 9, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Editor’s note: Projecting Auburn’s two-deep depth chart based on spring performance.

First Team

Auburn coaches downplayed the defense’s lack of experience at linebacker this spring thanks in part to the presence of junior-to-be Tre’ Williams.

Williams’ playing time increased as the season went along and he didn’t disappoint. The new defensive staff has confidence Williams can take his game up a notch while being one of the group’s leaders.

The 6-foot-2, 238-pound linebacker embraced the staff’s expectations coming into spring camp.

“I got a lot of shoes to fill,” Williams said. “It's a responsibility I've got to take care of, and I will.”

On A-Day, Williams had no issues being vocal and directing traffic. The expanded leadership responsibilities didn’t hurt his performance either. Williams tied for the lead on the Blue Team with six tackles (one for a loss) and played well against the run.

Most of Williams’ snaps with the first team defense came alongside Darrell Williams. As a true freshman last year, Darrell Williams saw limited action in nine games and didn’t record any statistics.

The Hoover High School alum out of Alabama proved he belonged with the first team as a standout performer in the exhibition game. Williams was one of the most physical defenders on the field.

“Darrell, he’s stepped up to that next level and I love it,” Tre Williams said. “Last year he was kind of struggling in some places and you can tell he’s been working. It showed out there today.”

Second Team

When former All-SEC linebacker Travis Williams spoke to the media for the first and only time this spring, the new linebackers coach spent a lot of his time talking up Deshaun Davis.

“I’m very proud of DeShaun Davis, who is really having a good spring,” Williams said. “He has some things you can’t coach such as instinct, eyes. If you’re going out there in shorts and you’re going to one of these camps and tell him to jump high and run fast then you’re going to look past him. If you’re looking for a football player then DeShaun Davis is a football player.”

Davis played for both the Blue and White teams on A-Day, but much of his time was spent with the second team defense.

“DeShaun Davis has probably taken five snaps his whole career on defense,” Williams said. “You will see him a lot this year. Just that third year the light comes on and he has a chance to do some good things.”

Illinois grad transfer T.J. Neal could shake up the depth chart at linebacker when he arrives on the Plains. Neal will be the most experienced linebacker on Auburn’s roster by a wide margin when he steps on campus this summer.

He started each of the past two seasons for the Illini and was one of the conference’s top tacklers (ranking in the top 20 each year).

The coaching staff hasn’t commented on Neal’s status, but the soon to be Tiger shared his letter of acceptance to the school on social media Thursday.

If Neal can catch up on the playbook, his experience could help him jump to the front of the line the same way Michigan defensive back Blake Countess became a key contribtor for Auburn last season.

Coming up: Projecting Auburn’s wide receivers