AUBURN |Kris Frost is supposed to be a star by now.
That's life in this era of instantaneous prospect assessment and Frost, a rising sophomore from North Carolina, was one of the biggest names around two years ago. He was an outstanding prep wideout. He was an outstanding linebacker as well.
Yet Frost has been nothing more than a curiosity since enrolling at Auburn, an unfulfilled promise.
Nobody knows that better than the player himself.
"There's a lot of stuff that I had to learn last year when it came to football as a whole, the concept of football, that I just didn't know," Frost said. "I feel like I learned a lot last year. I'm learning a lot now. I feel like it'll carry over into the season."
Frost missed most of 2011 because of pre-season shoulder surgery. He was cleared to practice in November and was expected to challenge for playing time during the 2012 season.
It didn't happen.
He spent last fall working behind Daren Bates, which is a terrible spot for a youngster aiming to break into the lineup. Bates loathed substitutions and took each one as a personal affront in light of his unusual dedication to cardiovascular fitness.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder respected Bates' determination and production. Frost played sparingly.
Not that he deserved more playing time. Frost said he felt good physically from start to finish, but often struggled to adjust mentally to the different schemes and concepts VanGorder, a long-time NFL assistant, called throughout a conference game.
The strategy overwhelmed Frost. He made mistakes in practice. VanGorder never lost hope in Frost, but categorized the mistake-prone linebacker as a "developmental player."
It was a title Frost didn't like. Still, he couldn't argue the point.
Things are changing this spring.
Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 system, Frost said, is easier to digest. The sophomore appreciates the new coordinator's approach toward teaching -- "(Johnson) knows how to get after you," he said -- and believes some subtle changes in how the defense operates in general will benefit players.
"You get a little bit more space to roam. You get a little more freedom," Frost said. "When you have more freedom, you have more chances to work on instincts. That's what I feel a lot of our guys are great at. That's where I feel like I'll be my best."
Where is the best spot for Frost?
Johnson believes Frost is most valuable at middle linebacker, which has been staffed by rising senior Jake Holland during the past two seasons. Frost said he's sharing time with Holland right now while the man who appeared to be Holland's heir apparent, rising sophomore Cassanova McKinzy, has been slotted preliminarily for a future at the other linebacker spot.
His reason for preferring the inside position is intriguing.
The youngster who struggled with strategy last season now wants to win the position most responsible for making pre-snap checks.
His confidence has returned. Frost is hoping that will combine with a burgeoning relationship with Johnson to yield much bigger returns in 2013.
"I'm comfortable at (middle linebacker). I'm liking it," he said. "Anytime I can be vocal, I like it. It's fun making the calls and everything. I had fun out there."