Robenson Therezie says hello to Arkansas' Brandon Allen on a play that turned into an Auburn touchdown
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Robenson Therezie did quite well in Auburn's season-opener, especially for a guy who had practiced not knowing if he'd be cleared to play...and learning that he could less than 24 hours before kickoff.
The starter last season at Auburn's hybrid safety/linebacker Star positon had a modest two tackles, but it was his hit on Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen that produced a fluttering pass that Jermaine Whitehead intercepted and returned 33 yards for a touchdown.
"When he's out there," Whitehead said, "you can expect something big from him."
"I thought he did some really flashy things," said defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.
Auburn beat Arkansas 45-21, thanks to a defense that shut out the Razorbacks in the second half. Auburn's defense will be looking for more of that kind of play when the Tigers play host to San Jose State at 6 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Therezie hit and Whitehead interception were more than teammates working together. They're roommates, too.
"It was a great joy to find out he can play," Whitehead said. "I was so happy for him as a teammate and a brother. It hurt him a little bit being a question he wouldn't be able to play.
"He didn't even get as many reps as practice as we would want him to have, but he was able to do a lot of things."
Therezie wasn't cleared until last Friday night as he dealt with eligibility issues the school did not define.
Auburn is now a solid two-deep at Star, one of the critical positions in Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 defense. Justin Garrett, who was ticketed for the starting role last season before suffering injuries, practiced as the starter in August, and started the opener. Now, he and Therezie can both play the position with authority, or even be on the field at the same time.
Ellis Johnson said so.
Garrett was the defensive MVP in the spring of 2013, but barely got on the field because of a sprained foot and then a broken bone in his foot. He played two games. Therezie, who packs a wallop for a guy who checks in at 5-foot-9, stepped right in.
"He's a real physical dude," Whitehead said. "You couldn't tell he's 5-9, 212. He believes he weighs bigger than that. He plays bigger than that. Hitting has always been a part of his game. I think it comes from his background: He came out as a running back in high school, and he played in the box in high school, and I think that's what got him so physical. He's an asset to our team and asset to his position and our defense."
Still, Therezie's play was limited in the opener.
"He did not have enough work in practice in the game plan for us to feel comfortable about playing him too much," Johnson said. "Where he could really help us was on third down, and we started rotating him in.
"Learning that late, it made it very difficult for us to feel comfortable for throwing him in the fire. But I think he showed he is a starter, but I think Justin showed he's a starter. It’s a situation we thought we had last year, and them one of them got hurt. I feel really good we've got that kind of depth at that position. It makes you feel good that if you lose one of them for a week or two, you don't miss a beat. The other factors are they'll be two of the best we've got in our dime package, with Therezie more on the skill side of it and Justin on the side of it where we can play our dime package and still be pretty stout in the box.
"I really feel good about him coming back and having both of those guys on the field together."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine