July 14, 2014
Gabe Wright makes his case at SEC Media Days
By Charles Goldberg
HOOVER, Ala. -- Auburn's turnaround last season took the Tigers all the way to the SEC title and the BCS championship game.
Not good enough, says Gabe Wright.
"The ultimate goal is the national championship, being on that stage, feeling that stage, experiencing that. That fire is still burning," says the Auburn defensive lineman.
Auburn came within 13 seconds of winning the national title last season Gabe Wright wants to finish the job. Already, he says, Auburn is in a different position than last year, when it showed up at these SEC Media Days as a team looking to rebound.
The Tigers' 12-2 season suggests they did.
"We know how it feels to be on the unknown list," Wright said. "I guess now, in a sense, we know how it feels to be circled. The way our head coaches talks with us, we really took his confidence ourselves. We really look at it as a week in, week out thing."
So, no, Auburn isn't skipping to the national title game or any other late-season game.
"We're not looking at Bama or the SEC Championship. We're going to start with Arkansas."
Auburn just happens to open against Arkansas.
Wright knows how to play the game. He had 35 tackles last season, 8½ of those were for a loss. He's on the watch lists for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and the Outland Trophy. He, center Reese Dismukes and tight end C.J. Uzomah made the rounds representing Auburn at SEC Media Days, circa 2014, on Monday.
All three are on national watch lists for their predicted play. But where will Wright actually play? Wright, a defensive tackle by trade, worked at defensive end in the spring. Crazy? Not crazy at all, considering Auburn has lost, at least for some time, a contributor at that position.
Auburn lost Carl Lawson to knee surgery in the offseason, so the Tigers are looking at some newcomers for depth, and has a veteran such as Gabe Wright looking at both positions this fall.
He played both in the spring, calling the experiment to get more big guys on the field the "Rhino package." Wright and Montravius Adams would fill that bill if they do indeed shift, even occasionally, from defensive tackle. Elijah Daniel and LaDarius Owens are there, too.
Wright played at 309 pounds last season. Not so now. He says he's at 290, even weighed 285 or so when practicing this spring.
"I saw a picture and I'm amazed at the weight I lost," he said.
Newcomers may make a move, too.
"They're all athletic. They're long, big guys," Wright said. "I just can't wait to get out there with them and do what we do."
Coach Gus Malzahn says Lawson is hoping to return at some point this season.
"He's a great athlete," Wright said. "I believe he's a phenom. That whole freshman class last year had some talent and some things I haven't seen. I like to think of myself as athletic, Carl, Elijah and Mon are guys who can play all three positions on the defensive line, which is truly incredible."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine