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Practice Primer: Nickels


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2017 Spring Primer: Auburn's Nickels

Evan McCullers

Players returning: Daniel Thomas, sophomore; Montavious Atkinson, junior

New players: Malcolm Askew

What to expect

With the veteran presence of Rudy Ford now lacking, Auburn must turn to youth to fill the void Ford left at Nickel.

Sophomore Daniel Thomas makes the most sense here after a strong end to last season. He recorded 12 of his 16 total tackles during the season’s final three games and also picked off two passes in the Iron Bowl, a first for a freshman since T’Sharvan Bell did so in the 2010 Outback Bowl.

Since Thomas filled in for Ford when he was injured in the Iron Bowl and held out for the Allstate Sugar Bowl, it seems he will begin spring practice with the first team in the spot that Ford vacated. But in order to win the job, Thomas will have to fend off Montavious Atkinson, a converted safety who is excellent in pass coverage for someone with his 6-foot-1, 217-pound frame.

Atkinson was fourth among linebackers last year with 30 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, so he’s proven he’s also competent in run support.

Though we expect he’ll be at a cornerback spot come fall, Malcolm Askew could slide down to Nickel at times during the spring to provide depth and get some extra reps.

Don’t be surprised if …

Playing time here is split fairly evenly. We like the looks of Daniel Thomas and Montavious Atkinson, and we expect they’ll both play extensively at the Nickel. Each has a different body type and different skills, so expect Auburn to mix and match this fall based on the defensive set and the opposing offense.

Projected depth chart

Daniel Thomas

Montavious Atkinson

Malcolm Askew

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