By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Growing up minutes from Jordan-Hare Stadium, Stephen Roberts often watched the Tigers on TV.
“My first time to actually come to a game was when I was getting recruited,” Roberts said. “That was kind of big for me, being a hometown, and get to see a school that I really loved to play for. It’s always a blessing just to be a part of that.”
A high school defensive back star, Roberts added quarterback duties his senior season when then Opelika High School coach Brian Blackmon offered the high-profile position.
“He coached me all through high school,” Roberts said of Blackmon, now an analyst working with Auburn’s offensive line. “Made me the starting quarterback my senior year. I guess he had to trust me.”
Roberts, a strong safety, and free safety Tray Matthews give Auburn a pair of senior starters in the back of the secondary.
“He’s being a very vocal leader,” Roberts said. “A guy who always comes to work, practice every day, workouts, he’s going to bring the same intensity every time. That’s something that I realize about him, playing beside him, he always brings enthusiasm to the defense and what we have to accomplish this year.”
Roberts hopes to play a leading role in creating a turnover renaissance among Auburn’s defense, something the Tigers have emphasized throughout preseason camp.
“Every day during practice, we’ll do some type of drill where we have to do turnovers,” Roberts said. “I know DBs, we work every day, every play, if you get a chance to get to the ball, at least try to punch it out, or get a disruption. That’s something that we’ve been doing so I think it’s going to pay off in the long run.”
Auburn’s defensive backs are working with a first-year position coach, secondary coach Greg Brown.
“He wants us to go out there with great effort, be great tacklers,” Roberts said. “That’s one thing they preach, the defensive coordinator as well. We’re going to be the team that out-efforts you, our physicality, just great tacklers. That’s one thing we talk about all of the time.”
Auburn’s defense faces an unconventional challenge in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. season opener, Georgia Southern’s triple option offense.
“The main thing we work on the most is using our eyes and keeping our eyes on our guy,” Roberts said. “Lining up and getting ready for them, because you know they’re running triple option so you’ve got to have cleats in the dirt and be ready to play.”
Roberts will also return punts, a skill at which he excelled in high school, less than 10 miles from where he’ll play seven more home games.
“Truly blessed to be doing my last one,” Roberts said. “Right now, just preparing. Trying to make the best out of this last season for us and the team as well.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
Ticket InformationA limited number of single-game tickets ($35) and Family Pack Tickets ($25) remain for the ULM game on Nov. 18. To purchase visit AUBTIX.com.