Auburn linebackers Owen Pappoe and Zakoby McClain took on bigger roles after a teammate got hurt last season, and they excelled — but apparently not enough to receive recognition for their efforts.
After senior K.J. Britt suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the season, both Pappoe and McClain stepped up and became the Tigers’ leading tacklers.
Neither Tiger was named to the All-SEC team at the season’s end.
“It hurt a little they didn’t give me any awards last year, but it just gives me more motivation,” McClain said on Friday. “I’ve got a chip on my shoulder to just keep going harder and harder.”
New defensive coordinator Derek Mason — previously the head coach of Vanderbilt — may be able to help this duo reach new levels and compete so they can’t be ignored.
Mason was one of Auburn’s biggest additions of the offseason, OAnow.com reports. Pappoe said he likes what he sees out of the new coordinator so far.
In 2020, Pappoe recorded 93 tackles for the season and has accounted for 142 career tackles.
McClain was third in the SEC with 113 tackles in the 2020 season and has 174 career tackles.
When McClain was asked about his aspirations for the upcoming fall, he said he wants to make more plays and become a better leader.
Pappoe believes that he and McClain will stand out as the difference-makers on defense in 2021.
“We’re taking the approach that we’re the heart of the defense,” Pappoe said. “As we go, the whole defense is going to go — every day, we’re gonna try to come with the energy and just rally the guys.”