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holbrook oakley Auburn defensive back Jermaine Whitehead (9) catches up to running back Corey Grant (20) Tuesday, March 25, 2014, during spring football practice at the Auburn Athletic Complex in Auburn, Ala. (Julie Bennett/

-- Jermaine Whitehead finds himself in something of an unfamiliar position this spring.Already established as the starter at field safety in Auburn's 4-2-5 and a veteran with 26 career starts under his belt, Whitehead no longer has to take a bunch of snaps in the spring to absorb either a new position or a new defense.Whitehead's now in charge of helping teach the defense to a group of young secondary players vying for roles to replace three key contributors in the secondary.A cerebral player with an encyclopedic knowledge of Johnson's defense, Whitehead, who makes a lot of the calls and checks for Auburn's secondary on defense, finds himself in a natural leadership role, although he's working with a new partner."You know, I really think me and Chris kind of shared the role last year," Whitehead said. "Mincy has taken on that role."Whitehead's leadership role is crucial as the Tigers break in emerging players like Derrick Moncrief and Rudy Ford at a safety position that was thin most of last season.Both Whitehead and boundary safety Josh Holsey---- have established roles after starting all or most of the past two seasons. Holsey, another cerebral player, has the same capabilities, but he's been held out of full contact this spring as he recovers from a torn ACL."The Whiteheads, the Holseys, the guys that have been back there, we know what they can do," Johnson said. "It s a matter of them just continuing to improve their craft and to get batter as leaders and players."For his part, Whitehead is less concerned about leadership than he is with making sure Johnson's defense runs smoothly.Whitehead knows the scheme almost as well as his coaches, and he's got an ability to pass that on to other players, helping them absorb the scheme faster. If that's leadership, then it's something Whitehead has been doing for a while."I don't really think we have a quote-unquote leader," Whitehead said. think it's just the guy who wants what's best for the team, what's best for the defense, who's been here, who knows what it's supposed to look like. If that's who we're going to call the leader, then I guess that's what we are."

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