Spring position battles: Star

Editor’s note: This is part one in a weeklong series looking at five position battles to watch when Auburn opens spring practice in two weeks.

AUBURN, Ala. -- The Star position. What is it? A hybrid between a linebacker and a defensive back. What are its responsibilities? To help against the run, to blitz at times and to cover the slot wide receiver or tight end. Who will fill the role next season for Auburn? To be determined.

Senior-to-be Robenson Therezie would seem like the favorite. He started every game at the Star last season during Auburn’s run to the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game, led the team with four interceptions and finished sixth in tackles.

However, there’s a reason the Auburn staff pushed so hard for ESPN 300 linebacker Rashaan Evans, who was projected to come in and compete at the Star as a freshman. The local prospect ended up signing with Alabama, but it still begs the question, is Therezie the clear-cut starter heading into spring practice?

“Robenson was a corner when we finished spring [last year],” defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said. “We had to move him to get some depth at Star, and Justin Garrett, probably the best playmaker we had coming out of spring ball, got injured. By the time he got back, Robenson had taken that job.”

Now everybody’s healthy, and there’s a new face in the mix.

The contenders

Therezie (senior): Make no mistake about it: Therezie was a playmaker last fall. After not playing much his first two years on campus, he finally got an opportunity and took advantage of it. He was known as a big hitter from his high school days, and he had the ability to cover, too. Perfect, right? The only problem was his size. At 5-foot-9, 204 pounds, he’s a tad undersized for the position.

Garrett (junior): He was supposed to be the ideal fit at Star in Johnson’s new 4-2-5 defense. He looked more like a linebacker, but he could cover like a defensive back. He was the MVP of the spring a year ago and listed atop the depth chart, but injuries kept him out of fall camp and opened the door for Therezie. When Garrett returned, he moved to weakside linebacker but was never fully healthy, playing in just two games before opting to take a medical redshirt. Now he’s back and hoping to duplicate the success he had last spring.

Derrick Moncrief (junior): The wild card in all this could be Moncrief, a junior college transfer who enrolled in January. He was the top-ranked juco outside linebacker and is expected to make an immediate impact either at Star or one of the safety positions. On signing day, coach Gus Malzahn called him a big, rangy guy who has very good ball skills and is a very good tackler. By the sound of it, he has all the right attributes.

Mackenro Alexander (sophomore): The plan was likely to redshirt Alexander, but injuries forced the freshman into action, and he served as Therezie’s backup for much of the season. In eight games, he finished with four tackles, including 1.5 for loss.

Spring forecast

This is still Therezie’s job to lose, but with openings at cornerback and safety -- until Josh Holsey returns from injury -- the Auburn coaches might experiment with Therezie at other positions in the secondary, allowing for both Garrett and Moncrief to receive more reps at Star. The goal is always to get the best players on the field, and that could mean moving Therezie to a new position. Unlike last season, there are plenty of options.