Aug 22, 2013
Junior Gabe Wright says physical practices have paid off (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – For Auburn’s defensive tackles, the chance for redemption is at hand.
As Auburn’s season came unraveled en route to a 3-9 record in 2012, considerable blame fell on the interior of the defensive line. Defensive tackles combined for just 74 tackles and 2½ sacks in 12 games. Opponents ran at will. Their quarterbacks were seldom hit. And it showed on the scoreboard.
“It’s a pride thing,” junior Angelo Blackson said. “It was a very bad season last year for us. This year is a chance for us to redeem ourselves. It is a chance for us as a team to prove we’re not that team from last year.”
Junior Gabe Wright enthusiastically agrees. He says it’s time to wash away the foul taste of what happened last season.
“ It’s a new day,” Wright said. “We believe, as a defensive front, we have to set the tone. The play starts with us and it should stop with us.”
The Tigers finished preseason camp Tuesday and had an off day Wednesday for the first day of classes. They’ll return to the practice field this afternoon to continue preparations for the Aug. 31 season-opener against Washington State at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Camp was fiercely physical in Gus Malzahn’s first preseason as head coach. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner drove his players hard. Wright says it was needed.
“It’s so much better,” Wright said. “Just talking about mental toughness, physical toughness, getting back to what Auburn was. When you want that in practice, guys are going to get banged up. There are going to be times games are going to be tight. That’s when going back to what we did in fall camp is going to help us win.”
Blackson, too, welcomed the physical nature of practice.
“We are emphasizing playing in the backfield, creating a new line of scrimmage,” Blackson said. “I think that’s the biggest difference. They stress making practice harder than the games. As a defense, I think we are going to take that in stride and get back to playing Auburn defense.”
Blackson, Wright, senior Jeff Whitaker and junior college transfer Ben Bradley figure to be in the playing rotation at defensive tackle. Freshman Montravius Adams could be next in line.
“We have been rolling guys in,” Wright said. “Coach G says he wants to use 10 guys – five tackles and five ends.”
Wright says he saw significant growth among the defensive tackles during camp. He says he expect it to show against the Cougars.
“As a whole, since Day 1, we have definitely excelled,” Wright said. “I’m not saying we are to our standards or Coach G’s standards, but I can say there has definitely been improvement. Now that fall camp is over, I think guys know what they need to do.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: