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Auburn notebook: Gus Malzahn upbeat on D-line, Roc Thomas
Sept. 15, 2014

Gus Malzahn expects Jeff Whitaker and the defensive line to be strong

By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala.  Auburn's rotating defensive line is just getting started, says coach Gus Malzahn.
"I really feel like that's going to be a strength of ours moving forward," he said on Auburn's Tiger Talk radio show Monday night.
You don’t have to fast forward too much to get to the next time the defensive line will play. The Tigers are at Kansas State for a 6:30 p.m. game Thursday against a team that can mix it up offensively.
The defensive line will try to counter that.
"We have some big guys up front. We have some guys with experience. We expect that group to get better and better, just like last year," Malzahn said. 
Malzahn said defensive line coach Rodney Garner, "is rotating guys in, keeping guys fresh and in the second half of games, we're playing better."
Malzahn also said on Tiger Talk…
• On freshman running back Roc Thomas: "You can tell he's got special ability. You'll see his role probably grow throughout the season."
• He's pleased with the fast start of redshirt freshman kicker/punter/field goal guy Daniel Carlson.
"He's a confident young man. He's really more mature than a regular freshman. I really expect him to do well. The biggest concern for me is making sure his leg stays fresh. When he does that much kicking, you can get your leg worn down."
Malzahn said special teams coach Scott Fountain "has done a good job managing" Carlson's workload in practice. 
Malzahn said he'd rather "err on the side of being a fresh leg than a dead leg."
• He also said punt returner Quan Bray "has really given us a spark." Bray returned a punt for a touchdown last time out.
• Malzahn said Monday's practice featured "positive energy."
• Malzahn's short-week practice world is a bit upside down.
"I didn't know it was Monday until I saw Monday Night Football on TV."
• Big line: "I think our guys have won both games convincingly." 
• On formerly-injured Sammie Coates: "We chose to hold him out of the last game to get him healthy for this one."
• He called Star defenders Robenson Therezie and Justin Garrett "impact players" and there will be times when they're on the field together. 
"They can present some challenges to offenses," he said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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