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August 7, 2013

Kris Frost fighting to establish himself as Auburn’s starting middle linebacker (w/video)

BY RYAN BLACK | rblack@ledger-enquirer.com

@wareagleextra | Like the blog on Facebook

AUBURN, Ala. — Kris Frost doesn’t mind a little competition.

That’s a good thing, because the redshirt sophomore is in the midst of a dogfight in fall camp. He and senior Jake Holland are vying to become Auburn’s starting middle linebacker. Coming out of the spring, Frost held a slight edge, ending at the top of the depth chart, though he had some help: Holland had to miss numerous meetings and practices due to a class scheduling conflict.

Redshirt sophomore Kris Frost is battling senior Jake Holland to settle who will be Auburn's starting middle linebacker when the season opens on Aug. 31. (File photo)

Redshirt sophomore Kris Frost is battling senior Jake Holland to settle who will be Auburn’s starting middle linebacker when the season opens on Aug. 31. (File photo)

Knowing what’s at stake, Frost didn’t dispute that this is the most important fall camp in his three seasons as a Tiger.

“It’s definitely been the biggest camp for me so far being healthy and being able to do everything,” he said. “It’s really important to me to get those reps and every chance I get to show what I have and just go all out on every play.”

To try to keep his edge over Holland, Frost committed himself to memorizing defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s 4-2-5 scheme.

“It’s just like school. It gets to the point where it’s repetition and going in your playbook and talking with the other guys on the field,” Frost said. “Just polishing everything up and making sure you have the little things down pat because when you have the little things down pat, then the whole grand scheme — everything — starts to mold together.”

Frost said he and Holland have seen time in the middle and on the weakside “and we’ve been switching a lot,” since Johnson wants them be equally adept at either spot. But one will eventually end up manning the “Mike” position, an increased responsibility since that player has to make every call and adjustment for the defense at the line of scrimmage.

Heading into the summer, Frost knew learning those calls would be crucial, especially since he admitted he had a tendency to guess wrong at times during the spring. While he’s come a long way, Johnson said Frost still had to get better at reading the keys necessary to make those split-second calls.

“It’s improved,” Johnson said, “but it’s still got to continue to improve.”

And Johnson did his part to make things easier, simplifying the calls to help the Tigers’ defense pick up the pace.

“(It’s) a lot faster,” Frost said. “… It’s kind of one-word calls, but one word can mean a lot of different things. It’s really made for offenses that go fast so we can keep up with those offenses. And we’ll be prepared especially with Coach (Gus) Malzahn’s offense.”

Digging into the playbook isn’t the only thing Frost has done to try to nail down the starting job. With the help of strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell, Frost put on nearly 15 pounds of muscle since the end of last year, now tipping the scales at 244 pounds. It’s a far cry from when he arrived at Auburn two years ago as a 215-pound freshman.

Things were much different back then.

Frost never played in 2011, sidelined the entire year with a shoulder injury he suffered during fall camp. Many thought Frost would rectify that last year, as he figured to play a role in the strongside linebacker rotation. That didn’t pan out, which forced then-defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to move him behind starter Daren Bates. There, Frost languished, tallying only five tackles despite appearing in 10 games.

That’s why Frost plans on making the most of the opportunity at hand, well aware that Holland and others are working every bit as hard to ascend to the top of the depth chart.

“There’s not one guy on that field that doesn’t want to start,” Frost said. “There’s not one guy on the field that doesn’t think he’s the best linebacker out there, which is a great thing.”

The self-confidence of those in the linebacker corps is a small piece of a team-wide objective: To prove last season was a fluke instead of serving as the first sign of a program spiraling into perpetual mediocrity.

Soon enough, it will be time for that talk to be replaced by production.

“We have a lot to get done this year,” Frost said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t think we’re going to do anything this year, (so) we have that big chip on our shoulders.”

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