Young Linemen Looking To Step Up For Tigers

Auburn sophomore Dee Ford and freshman Nosa Eguae talk about playing in the Iron Bowl and their role on the defense.

Auburn, Ala.--With seniors Michael Goggans and Mike Blanc suspended for the first half of Friday's Iron Bowl game against 9-2 Alabama, the second-ranked Auburn Tigers (11-0, 7-0) and coach Tracy Rocker will need several young players to perform well if they hope to finish the regular season undefeated on the way to the SEC title game in Atlanta.

One of those is starting defensive end Nosa Eguae. Taking over for Goggans during the year, Eguae has responded well so far but said the biggest test of the season is coming this Saturday for the Tigers.

"They are a really good football team," Eguae said. "They are balanced. They've got a good running and receiving attack and they are physical. They're just a really good football team.

"They have two spectacular backs," he added. "They are hard runners. We know we're going to have to go out there and play a physical game and gang tackle. They are just really good players."

Nosa Eguae

With a powerful Alabama rushing attack, led by Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and the passing tandem of Greg McElroy to Julio Jones, the Crimson Tide are capable of making plays on offense without pressure from the defensive line. That means players such as sophomore Dee Ford could be counted on to pick up the slack in the first 30 minutes on Friday.

"We have to step up," Ford said. "With Goggans out Craig Sanders will have to step up and I might move over some to that position as well. It will just be for that first half. I'm expecting some big plays from those guys when they come back for the second half."

This season Ford has picked up his play tremendously as he's become more accustomed to the defensive end position as well as his added strength and muscle. With 10 tackles and a pair of sacks this season while playing in 10 games, Ford came up big the last time out for the Tigers with a sack of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in Auburn's win.

"It was very big," Ford said of his play against Georgia. "I found out just how big it was when I had 30 texts on my phone afterwards. You find out who is watching. We basically took them out of their game. That was very big."

With two games left before a possible chance to play for a national championship, Ford said sometimes it can be tough to keep those thoughts from creeping into your head. He said one of the biggest reasons why this team has managed to put everything behind them and just play football is because of coach Gene Chizik.

A very regimented person because of his military background growing up and someone who doesn't look even one day ahead, Ford said Chizik has focused on keeping his team on target this season and that includes some out of the box thinking.

"Coach Chizik does a tremendous job of reminding us to stay focused," Ford said. "He showed us a video of three people throwing a ball and then a gorilla walks across in front of them. He basically told us you've got to keep your eye on the ball and not get distracted. We have to stay focused and locked in."

After playing sparingly as a freshman, Ford said he's looking forward to his first opportunity at significant playing time in the Iron Bowl. With bragging rights on the line as well as a perfect record, he said for him and the young guys on defense the job is to take things slowly and build until kickoff on Friday.

"It's a lot of fun but you can't be too overanxious," Ford said. "You've got to stay calm. You can't be too excited. We have to still think about the gameplan."

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