A look at the Auburn linebackers ahead of the Spring Ball

We take a look at every position group as Auburn prepares to open spring training on March 14. The eighth in an 11-part series examines linebackers.

The search for redemption is a recurring theme for Bryan Harsin’s team after a disappointing 6-7 season in his first season as Auburn’s head coach. As difficult as last year was for the Tigers, few players have experienced as much adversity as Owen Pappoe battling injury.

Pappoe played in five games for Auburn during his junior season. An injury sidelined him for several games and posted 23 tackles and three for loss. He had over 90 tackles in his second campaign and appeared to be heading to the NFL before the start of the year.

Pappoe’s drop in draft status last year could serve as a victory for new defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding. A motivated and healthy Pappoe should boost a unit looking to replace Chandler Wooten and Zakoby McClain.

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Last season, Wooten had 95 tackles, three pass deflections, one interception and five tackles for loss. McClain had 96 tackles, two sacks and six pass deflections. Replacing the production of this duo will not be an easy task. Let’s take a look at the linebacker room to see who might step in next.

Projected depth chart:


Owen Papoe, senior

Wesley Steiner, junior

Desmond Tisdol, Jr.

Gordon Powell, Real Freshman


Eugene Asante, senior

Cam Riley, Jr.

Joko Willis, second year

Kameron Brown, junior red shirt

Deceased: Chandler Wooten. Zakoby McClain.

Expected to arrive in the fall: Robert Woodyard

Outlook: Eugene Asante arrives in the Plains as a transfer from North Carolina. He played 12 games and started in two of them while racking up 23 tackles. The Virginia native has a chance to start alongside Pappoe.

Steiner had 21 tackles and 1.5 for the loss and played in all of Auburn’s games last season. He should get more playing time if he continues to develop with the loss of Wooten and McClain.

Tisdol played seven games last season as a sophomore. He had seven tackles with limited playing time. Look for him and Steiner to push each other for reps with the first team.

Riley had nine tackles last season. He’s another athlete hoping for more opportunities to shine.

Willis played 10 games, mostly as a special team. He’s a talented athlete who will make an impact on special teams and could see some action as a linebacker.

Gordon is an Auburn alumnus and is already enrolled at Auburn. He will have an advantage over the other freshmen since he is already in spring training. Woodyard will join the team in August out of high school.

Other than Pappoe and Asante, the Tigers are inexperienced at linebacker. Time will tell how the young group evolves in their efforts to help Auburn find redemption from last year.

Nubyjas Wilborn covers Auburn for Alabama Media Group.

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