Oct. 7, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. – It was the week before Auburn’s second game of last season, and already cracks were starting show in a football team bound for a season of misery.
The Tigers had put up quite a fight before falling to Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, but there were rumblings that some players were unhappy. It soon became obvious that one of those players was sophomore cornerback Robenson “Cadillac” Therezie.
Fast, strong and athletic, Therezie had been a recruiting coup out of Miami. He’d run with the first team throughout spring practice and at the start of preseason camp. But he was sidelined by an injury, and when he returned, he’d fallen down the depth chart. He had not played in the opener.
The shocking news got out before the Tigers went to Mississippi State for their second game. Therezie’s request to move to running back, where he’d been a standout in high school, had been granted.
"It was one of those positions I wanted to do for a long time," Therezie said at the time. "So I just wanted to make that decision that made me happy."
The move didn’t last long. Therezie had no chance of breaking into the playing rotation at running back, and he was soon back on defense. He played bit parts the rest of the season, getting snaps mainly against teams that wanted to run the ball.
I thought about those days Saturday night as Therezie, the fastest man on the field, sprinted 78 yards for a touchdown with his third interception of the season to help Auburn beat Ole Miss 30-22.
Therezie’s turnaround began when Gus Malzahn was named head coach last December and soon named Ellis Johnson defensive coordinator. But it didn’t happen overnight. Midway through spring practice, Therezie was a backup cornerback. Then he was moved to the star position, a hybrid safety/linebacker in Johnson’s 4-2-5 scheme. Justin Garrett was ahead of him and having the spring of his life.
But Garrett was injured and couldn’t play in the opener. Therezie took his place and intercepted two passes and made seven tackles. He was Southeastern Defensive Player of the Week. It’s been onward and upward from there.
“It’s been good,” Johnson said. “LSU was not really his style of game, but when he was out on those wideouts he did a good job. In most of our games he’s had a lot of responsibility out in space, which is what that hybrid has to do. He’s done a really good job.”
Therezie is clearly not comfortable talking about last season. He offers no criticism or complaints, choosing to live in the moment and look to a future that is no longer clouded with doubt.
“I don’t know if I really fit the kind of defense we were in,” Therezie said. “I don’t know.”
But he knows he fits now. He says he feels like an ideal fit for the star position, which demands the cover skills of a defensive back and the physical nature of a linebacker. He loves to blitz. He doesn’t have a sack yet, but he’s confident he’ll get some as the season goes on.
The brash freshman that arrived in the summer of 2011 has been replaced by a calmer junior whose belief in himself and his team remains strong if more understated. His life changed, he says, when his daughter was born last spring.
“It really opened my eyes,” Therezie says. “I played for the love of the game and still do, but now that I have a daughter, I play for her.”
And he’s doing it really well.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: