The word "Star" may fit Justin Garrett in more ways than one in the coming months.
Along with "Star" being the name of his position in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme, he can also use the word with regard to his potential when the Tigers kick off the 2013 season in the fall.
Reports out of Auburn's practices this spring indicated that Garrett may be primed for a breakout season. Those reports were confirmed in Auburn's A-day game on Saturday.
He got the Orange team (composed of Auburn's first-team D and second-team O) on the board first with a fumble recovery that he scooped up and scampered into the North end zone for a touchdown.
Josh Vitale @AUBlog
Malzahn glowing over Justin Garrett's play, including fumble returned for TD: "That was a great play he made, scoop and score."2013-4-20 20:11:35
The remainder of the first half was filled with more strong plays from Garrett, including a big hit that caused an Auburn receiver to leave his feet.
It's understandable if Auburn fans are cautious about getting too hyped up about a player based on their performance in the spring. Last year, Corey Grant was the star of spring. That earned him a total of nine carries in live action last fall.
That won't be the case for Garrett, as he is a star (figuratively) in the making for the Tigers. His talents will force him to be on the field in the fall.
As Auburn fans have probably learned by now, the Star position is a hybrid player that has both defensive back and linebacker qualities. The player must be able to cover, blitz and help in stopping the run.
That profile fits Garrett perfectly. His closing speed allows him to fill the alley and chase down runners. The physicality he plays with both in space and in the box allows him to fit the role naturally.
And Johnson is not shy to tell you how he feels about Garrett's tackling ability. "He is, without a doubt, the best we’ve got," Johnson said on April 5. "He hasn’t played much ball, not in games around here. It’s not always game experience when it comes to something as simple as physically tackling." (h/t Charles Goldberg, auburntigers.com)
For a team that severely underperformed in that area last fall, Garrett will find his way on the field.
After studying Johnson's defenses at South Carolina to get more acquainted with the position, Garrett knew he found the spot he belonged.
"It's a natural fit," he told me after Saturday's A-Day game.
Hard to argue with that after the spring Garrett put together.
If his spring performance carries over into the fall, fans will be calling him a "Star" for more reasons than that being the title of his position.