The Auburn Tigers are expected to have improved in many areas since last season, particularly its defensive secondary, which is expected to make a leap in 2023.

D.J. James, a native of Mobile who spent three seasons with the Oregon Ducks, joined the program last season and recorded 25 tackles, one interception and eight passes defended.

James is once again expected to be a leader in the Auburn secondary and one of the more productive cornerbacks in the SEC. James' performance will be a crucial factor in what kind of season the Tigers' defense puts together this fall.

"It's been fun, very competitive," James said on how camp has been so far. "Coach Crime (Wesley McGriff) is getting after us each and every day and making us better. He's pushing us to our limits and just embracing it."

McGriff, Auburn's defensive backs coach, is known to be hands-on in his coaching methods. James commented on how beneficial that kind of coaching is.

"I love it," James said. "Just very hands-on, drill-by-drill. In everything we do, from walk-throughs to team meetings to on the field, he's just very hands-on in everything we do."

James also weighed in on how camp has been going for him.

"It's going really good," James said. "Just getting in shape, straining, working on what I need to work on and improving. Also just getting pushed by my coaches and my teammates.

The landscape of college football is changing. A lot of teams are finding new conferences, including Oregon, which James used to play for. James gave his opinions on the current status of the PAC-12 Conference, which will see a mass exodus over the next few years.

"I kinda expected it," James said on the demise of the PAC-12. "I did, I've seen it coming a little bit."

The secondary will be a make-or-break position for Auburn this season, but James is confident in the guys playing alongside him.

"The whole first group in my opinion has jumped out," James said. "Nehemiah (Pritchett), Jaylin Simpson and Zion (Puckett), those guys are communicating and making sure everyone is on the same page. We're all clicking."

James has been vocal about his expectation to be an All-American this season and went over some of the things he has been working on, as well as why he thinks he can have a big season.

"Really just seeing a lot and playing in a different conference," James said. "Different routes, different players, different receivers. I hadn't seen a lot or played a lot of football, so I feel like that plays a factor and just my performance and how fast I play."

James has shown his ability to be an asset in the secondary. Time will tell if the Auburn secondary can help the Tigers win a lot of games or be the reason the team comes up short. No matter which way things go, James will be a leader on and off the field.

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