Owen Pappoe, Isaiah Spiller

Auburn linebacker Owen Pappoe wraps up Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller

For Auburn’s defense, the off-season has been a time of rebuilding with a new defensive coordinator and a multitude of inexperienced players in various positions. 

The task of pulling the linebacking corps together will fall to first-year position coach Christian Robinson, who also serves as the Tigers' defensive run game coordinator. Robinson joined head coach Bryan Harsin's staff in January after serving four seasons as the linebackers coach at Florida.

One thing Robinson will rely heavily on is player leadership. Key voices on and off the field will be crucial in the success of this team. 

Senior linebacker Owen Pappoe is certainly one of the players the coaches are looking to be a leader. 

Pappoe has started at the linebacker position every game for the Tigers from his season-opener freshman year to last fall when an ankle injury at Penn State halted his play. The injury forced him to miss the majority of the remaining games in the 2021 season.

Before the injury, he was heading into the 2021 season as a pre-season all-SEC pick. In his freshman season, he recorded 49 tackles and two sacks and in his sophomore year he put up an impressive 93 tackles and four sacks on the season.

After Pappoe, the next most experienced player for the Tigers is a recent addition to the team in North Carolina transfer Eugene Asante, who appeared in 12 games and had 23 tackles for the Tar Heels last season. 

After Pappoe and Asante, Auburn sees a substantial decrease in experience with the remaining players. 

Juniors Wesley Steiner and Desmond Tisdol are most likely next in line for playing time. Steiner had 21 tackles and played in all of Auburn’s games last season. Tisdol played in seven games last season and made seven tackles. 

With the loss of Chandler Wooten and Zakoby McClain, both Steiner and Tisdol stand to see the field more in 2022. 

The remaining linebackers in Auburn’s artillery are Powell Gordon, Cam Riley and Joko Willis, who had a solid spring and should provide some much-needed depth. 

Riley completed nine tackles in the 2021 season but has seen very little of the field in his time at Auburn. Willis played in 10 games, primarily on special teams. 

With very little experience at the linebacker position, Willis will likely stick to mainly being used on special teams. Gordon is a true freshman that enrolled in Auburn in early spring. The 6-3 210-pounder helped Auburn High advance to the Class 7-A regional finals with a 10-3 record his senior season.

The Tigers are looking to bounce back from their 6-7 season but are going to need big performances all year from these defensive players, especially Pappoe.

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