Auburn's Rodney Garner: 'You have to walk the walk'

April 6, 2014

Auburn’s Montravius Adams says he believes he can thrive at defensive end (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Phillip Marshall

AUBURN, Ala. – Rodney Garner, Auburn’s defensive line coach, says playing sophomore Montravius Adams and senior Gabe Wright at defensive end is no spring fling. Adams and Wright, both defensive tackles by trade, have worked for much of spring practice on the outside. And Garner says there could be a plan in place for them to play there at least part-time next season.

“I’ll tell you this: Athletically, just strictly athletically, Montravius and Gabe are athletic enough to play outside,” Garner said. “On first and second down, they’d be as athletic as any defensive in the country. On third down, you might want more of a speed guy.”

But Garners hastened to add that being athletically capable might not be enough. He wants to see more, especially from the veteran Wright.

“He has to be tough enough to embrace it all,” Garner said. “A great player can play all down that line. When I had Richard Seymour (at Georgia), he played every position on the defensive line. That’s why he had longevity. Gabe can do that. Montravius can do that.

“Now we have to look at if they can do it from a mentality standpoint. You can’t lose that intensity and edge it takes to play inside. That’s why I didn’t put Gabe outside last year. I’m still trying to develop that mentality where he is going to embrace being that tough guy. It’s easy to talk about it. It’s another thing to do it. You have to walk the walk.”

Adams said after Saturday’s scrimmage that he is working to do just that.

"I can do anything I put my mind to," Adams said. "God blessed me with me a lot of athletic ability. I can do whatever I want to do."

For now, that means learning how to play defensive end.

“I think I’ve pretty much got tackle down,” Adams said. “I’m working more on end now.”

Garner’s defensive line improved steadily last season as the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference championship. He wants more, and injuries have slowed progress this spring.

“We are a work in progress,” Garner said. “We left so much on the field last year. I think we improved, but we have so much room for improvement. I try to get these guys to understand that every day they have to come to work. Every day they have to bring an edge and intensity to the field. When they step between the lines, there whole mentality has to change.”

That is especially true, Garner says, for seniors Angelo Blackson, LaDarius Owens, Jeff Whitaker, Ben Bradley and Wright.

“I have five seniors that want to pursue football after this,” Garner said. “They’d better be polishing their craft right now. If they’re not getting better, somebody else is working to get better. The worst thing people can say about you is that you have potential.”

With Owens, JaBrian Niles and Tyler Nero sidelined and Elijah Daniel limited by injuries, depth has been an issue. And Garner wants to see his players cope with it better.

“There are inconsistencies, and that’s not a champion’s approach,” Garner said. “We are down four guys. That means the reps had to increase for the other guys. Garner has rotated Bradley, Blackson and Whitaker at tackles. At ends, he has rotated Wright and Adams on one side and Carl Lawson and Gimel President on the other.

“That mentality of counting reps and this and that and feeling sorry for ourselves, we can’t do that,” Garner said. “I want to have 10-12 guys that are game ready. Right now I have seven.”


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:




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