Dealing with last season's departures to the NFL and players dealing with injuries, the Auburn defense has seen new defensive leaders emerge. One such player is junior defensive back Smoke Monday.
Monday had 20 total tackles in the 2019 season and has nearly matched that total through the first three games with 18 tackles. Being a leader on the defense is something that Monday does not take for granted.
“It’s a huge responsibility for me,” Monday said. “Coming in my freshman year, I didn’t start as a freshman, but I knew I had to prepare like I was a starter. By me doing that since my freshman year, it just came naturally to me. So once I got the opportunity to be the leader of the defense, I was ready for it.”
One of the younger players that is making a name for himself is redshirt freshman Colby Wooden. The defensive end played sparingly in 2019 after contracting mono. Now in 2020, Wooden has appeared in every game for the Tigers.
Wooden has totaled 15 tackles and one sack through the first three games. Monday spoke highly of his teammate as Wooden is becoming more of a mainstay along on the defensive line.
“[Wooden] is working. He’s very tough,” Monday said. “He’s always been hard on himself. I feel like Coach G is doing a great job with developing him and letting him know that, 'hey man, it’s the SEC.' You’ve got to go out and play your best every single snap because he knows that person in front of him is going to do his best every snap. You play every snap like it’s your last. I feel like those guys and Wooden have done a great job doing that.”
Another player that has stepped up is junior linebacker, Zakoby McClain. McClain has taken on a larger role on defense after senior linebacker and captain K.J. Britt was injured in the Georgia game. In the first game without Britt, McClain led the team with 13 total tackles.
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“Zakoby, he was ready for it,” Monday said. “There was no doubt he was ready for it when K.J. went down. I feel like he was ready for that moment all his life. When we get on the field, he’s going to do his job. He’s going to play as hard as he can every snap. It was no question when K.J. went down I knew he was going to step up and take that leadership role that we needed."
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