5 Auburn Tigers to Watch Against Arkansas

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#26 Justin Garrett, 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, Junior, Star

When head coach Gus Malzahn sat down for his first radio talk show of the season Monday night, some listeners expected to hear an update on Robenson Therezie’s “eligibility issues.” Instead, there was no mention of the returning starter at the Star, which is a hybrid linebacker/safety position.

“Justin Garrett, he’s our main guy,” Malzahn said. “T.J. (Davis) is going to get a chance to play some right there and we’ll also mix and match.”

Apr 20, 2013; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn linebacker Justin Garrett (26) celebrates his defensive touchdown off a high snap lose ball with Auburn defensive back Jonathon Mincy (21) during their A-Day spring game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

As disappointing as it is that Therezie’s return is in question, the Tigers are in good hands with Garrett. In fact, Garrett was expected to be the starter in 2013 and had moved to the top of the depth chart after spring practice that year before he succumbed to a foot injury that cost him most of the season.

Garrett is now fully healthy ready to play early and often for the Auburn defense. The junior was impressive in the spring and in fall camp, according to defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

“If that kid can have a full season of practice and games,” Johnson said, “I think he can be one of our most dynamic playmakers. He’s done a really good job so far.”

Should Therezie resolve his eligibility concerns, he will challenge Garrett for playing time. Other players in the mix include Mackerno Alexander and Nick Ruffin.

“I don’t want to sit here and tell you before the depth chart comes out tomorrow, but we’ve got some other guys that play the linebacker position that are going to give us some depth there,” Malzahn said on Tiger Talk.

When the depth chart was released, Garret was, as expected, the top name at the position. Nick Ruffin, somewhat surprisingly, was the second teamer.