Roster outlook: LB
AUBURN | The next in a series of position-by-position looks at Auburn’s roster in 2019 is linebacker. The position is in rebuilding mode after losing three seniors plus junior Richard McBryde, who suffered a career-ending neck injury before last season.
Gone are the top three linebackers in the playing rotation this fall in Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson. Davis will be particularly tough to replace with his leadership and responsibilities for making calls and getting the team lined up properly as the starting Mike linebacker the last three years.
Davis, Williams and Atkinson leave Auburn with a combined 74 career starts and 150 games played.
Travis Williams, Auburn’s fourth-year linebacker coach, has had a plan in place the last couple of years to replace the talented trio, starting with his two 2017 signees: K.J. Britt and Chandler Wooten.
Britt and Wooten have combined to play in 44 games the past two seasons with Wooten starting twice. Britt is the heir apparent at Mike and already has the reputation as an aggressive and hard-hitting linebacker, going by the nickname Downhill Britt.
Wooten started against Tennessee and Texas A&M this season and should be able to step into the role held down by the versatile Williams the last few years.
Those two juniors will likely be the starters as Auburn plays mainly nickel for most games, but the Tigers will need to establish some serious depth starting with three players signed in the 2018 class.
Zakoby McClain was the best of the bunch this fall, playing in all 13 games and looks to have a similar skillset of Atkinson. Both Michael Harris and Josh Marsh redshirted this fall but will be counted on to contribute much more on defense and special teams going forward.
Auburn will need some immediate help from the 2019 class and is getting that with signee Owen Pappoe. The nation’s No. 1 outside linebacker will enroll in January and should compete for an immediate spot in the playing rotation.
The Tigers also plan to add at least one more linebacker to the class, which should give Williams seven scholarship players to work with next fall. That may seem like a low number but with only two linebackers on the field for most of the snaps, that gives Auburn a three deep plus one.