The primary focus on Auburn football this spring has been on who would win the starting quarterback job. On the other side of the ball, though, Auburn has had spots to fill with key losses like Deshaun Davis and Dontavius Russell.
K.J. Britt is one such player who looks to rise to the occasion this fall, taking over Davis' role as the de-facto leader of the linebackers.
Newly appointed defensive leaders like Britt are making sure to get everyone ready for fall and hopes to replicate the defense from last season which allowed 19.15 points a game and finished 38th in total defense in the country.
Britt, who refers to himself as an "old man" when he's out on the field, isn't the only defensive player returning, but he does see himself as a leader on the defense.
“I’ve been a leader my whole life," Britt said, "and I try not to lead by word of mouth but by example, it’s just something that I do, I can’t even explain it, it’s just something that I think I was naturally born with, I really believe that."
Britt finished with a lone tackle during A-Day, but has been slowly filling in the "Deshaun Davis type" role that coaches expected to see from him when Davis left.
"I think overall, they’ve had a very good spring and Britt has been leading that group and has really taken over for Deshaun Davis," Malzahn said. "It’s his moment and he’s been waiting for this moment. He is really physical and has really improved.”
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Britt though was impressed by the play of his teammates, like freshman linebacker Owen Pappoe, who had three tackles on the day for the blue side.
“Owen is big, strong, fast, smart and he has that coach mentality," Britt said. "Not a guy who talks a lot, just do what he’s gotta do and play ball. Y’all see he can run, big, fast; he’s a freak.
Britt said Pappoe, who is expected to contribute in the linebacking corps this season that loses three starters from last year, has some of the most impressive speed on the defense, but it's not blind speed. Every play from the 18-year-old is calculated
"He’s learning the defense," Britt said of Pappoe. "He’s learning it well, so that’s a good thing that stands out about him, too.”
While most of the discussion following A-Day will be on the offensive side of things going into the fall, the starting defense did its job at A-Day, only allowing 10 points and 211 yards of offense.
Young guys like Pappoe have Britt excited about this year's defense, which returns seven starters in Derrick Brown, Nick Coe, Marlon Davidson, Jeremiah Dinson, Javaris Davis, Noah Igbinoghene and Daniel Thomas are a massive help for the young guys and the defense as a whole.
"We want to get better, everyone wants to get better, everyone is eager to get better, everyone eager to learn, it ain’t been nobody been pulling teeth for people to get better, it’s been like some really coach to coach mentality," Britt said. "Everyone is listening, trying to get on the same page, trying to get a chemistry. I believe that’s something special. I’ve never been a part of a defense where everyone just click on being on the same page,and we’re really gritty too, not going to try and take any stuff. I’ve enjoyed playing with them."
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