Montavious Atkinson's increased role at weakside linebacker gives Auburn 'multiplicity' on defense

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Montavious Atkinson's increased role at weakside linebacker gives Auburn 'multiplicity' on defense

Montavious Atkinson is plenty familiar with what it takes to play linebacker at Auburn and in the SEC, but after spending last season as the Tigers' fourth linebacker, Atkinson is primed and ready for an even larger role as a senior this fall.

Atkinson is part of a triumvirate of senior linebackers -- along with middle linebacker Deshaun Davis and strongside linebacker Darrell Williams -- set to bolster the middle of Auburn's defense this fall. Entering his third year in Kevin Steele's defense, Atkinson feels well prepared to step in for departed senior Tre' Williams on the weak side.

"I think it's going good this year for us," Atkinson said. "These are guys I came in with and I've been playing with since Day 1, and I think we've got good chemistry. I think we're just bonding together and we're able to talk on the field and get things now."

Atkinson, who arrived at Auburn as a safety before switching to linebacker as a sophomore, spent the last two seasons mostly in a reserve role for the Tigers. He appeared in 12 games with one start in 2016 and then saw his role increase last year, when he saw action in all 14 games and made five starts, typically filling in as a starter for an injured Tre' Williams, who dealt with a shoulder stinger for much of the season.

Atkinson totaled 43 tackles last season, including 1.5 for a loss and one sack, finishing 12th on the team in tackles. He also had four quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.

Projected Auburn depth chart after second spring scrimmage

The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder has a distinct skillset that allows Steele and linebackers coach Travis Williams to use him in various forms when he's on the field.

"AT is kind of a guy that is so physically tough and plays with such a high motor, he runs so well, we can use him in some different ways," Steele said. "He's a good pass-rusher, he's a good blitzer, good open-field tackler but he can also cover. He can steal some snaps with him. He won't stay on the top wide receivers but if they're in four wide receivers, there's some teams he can cover the fourth wide receiver, so it gives us a little bit of multiplicity without having substitute."

While Atkinson said his biggest focus this spring is improving his contributions on special teams, that shouldn't downplay the increased role he should see on defense come fall, when he'll have a chance to be a major contributor who can play a little more freely given his experiences of the last two years.

"It's very different," Atkinson said. "I'm not out there thinking no more. I'm just getting stuff done. I'm running to the ball. I'm just doing my assignments. It's really like easy."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

from Auburn Sports Impact

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