March 29, 2014
Auburn's Gabe Wright wraps up AJ McCarron in last season's Iron Bowl (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Gabe Wright smiles about defensive tackles lining up at defensive end, smiles at the prospect of a big defensive line challenging the most physical teams in the SEC.
"It's time to get the Rhino package," Wright says.
It's time this spring, anyway, for Wright and Montravius Adams, defensive tackles by trade, who have shifted over to end for a look-see. Wright says he doesn't mind.
"We talked about this in my early years, when I was on the bench and they had the cheetahs out there," he said.
The cheetahs were Corey Lemonier, Nosa Eguae "and all those little guys." The defensive tackles stood their ground, of course, and even now Wright figures he'll be at tackle when fall rolls around when the Tigers aren't slowed at end by injury. Missing from action this spring are ends LaDarius Owens and Elijah Daniel.
Wright said after Saturday's scrimmage he likes the idea of playing end because (1.) he doesn't have to crash into 300-pounders every down and (2.) he isn't double and triple-teamed all the time.
"I wouldn't say it's my No. 1 position, but I guess it is," he said. "In high school, that's what I played before putting on all this weight. It's really just a blessing for me to get back on the edge. We had some guys go down, some depth issues this spring, so guys had to step up.
"This scrimmage, we actually had one of our worst rotations. We had four inside guys for three groups of orange, blue and white, which is unbelievable. Hats go off to the D-tackles for rotating to keep up, especially with Coach Malzahn's pace."
He figures he'll be in the defensive tackle mix again when it counts. But, until then, "I get a chance to work on my edge rush. Being an end, it gives you a different chance to work the edge of a guy, and just to have that versatility, especially when you play some of these offenses in the SEC that have two-tight end, three-tight end sets."
Wright says he checked in at 317 pounds as a freshman, played at 296 last season and plans to play around 290-295 this fall.
He could be in that Rhino package there.
"I feel like I’ll play inside, but when we do have teams like Arkansas, Alabama, LSU – this is not what coaches told me – I just believe it would be a factor," Wright said.
Wright likes the versatility.
"The fact that we could go maybe four D-tackles at one point, that just amazes me," he said. "It’s kind of like what do you do? I mean you can bull rush the tackles or we can bull rush the ends."
Wright talks of Owens and Daniel, Carl Lawson and Adams, of Jeff Whitaker and more. Even the newcomers who have yet to arrive.
"Carl’s a physical beast," Wright said. "I think I said this before those three freshmen, or sophomores now, they can be magical. They got all the physical talent in the world, just like as a whole defensively we got to do communication, it’s just really meant for them, but Carl definitely showing some traits on that left side, looking almost as good or better than Dee (Ford). He brings a different level, just like all the rest of us do."
The grand experiment continues, at least for a few more weeks.
"If you've got five or six D-tackles that have played in the SEC, and you want your best players on the field, then why not throw them out?" Wright asked. "Do I believe I'll be starting at end against Arkansas? No, I don't, but does it make sense to do it? Yeah, the fact that I know the plays and won't have to be working it in the fall. In spring you really get a chance to work fundamentals and technicalities and get all those things out of the way."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine