Can Ellis Johnson Spark Auburn Defense in 2013?

By Patrick Schmidt
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 season for Auburn will look strikingly different compared to the 2012 version, both on offense, where Gus Malzahn brings his spread offense attack back to The Plains, and on defense, where new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson brings his 4-2-5 defense to revitalize a young defense.

Johnson returns to the SEC after coordinating defenses at Alabama, Mississippi State and South Carolina and his biggest job at the onset of spring practice will be finding the two linebackers to compete for those two spots. In an ideal world, Auburn would have Reuben Foster trying to win a spot as a true freshman, but the longtime Auburn commit signed with the hated rival Crimson Tide.

The likeliest candidate to fill one of the linebacker spots is senior Jake Holland, who is coming off a 73-tackle season last year as a junior. The other spot could come down to a battle between rising sophomores Kris Frost and Cassanova McKinzy. What they lack in experience, they make up for in size as both Frost and McKinzy have great size to play the position. Frost measures in at 6-2 and 235-pounds while McKinzy checks in at 6-3 and 245-pounds.

Last season, Auburn finished 66th in the nation in points allowed when the defense gave up 28.3 points per game, but in SEC games, that number grew to 34 points per game.

The addition of Johnson to the staff, combined with a better offense on the field, should produce better results on the defensive side of the ball. All eyes will be on the linebacker spot in this system and Tigers fans will hope that Johnson’s success at his previous SEC stops carries over into 2013.

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Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.

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