Tigers Still Looking For Starter At Cornerback

Coach Gene Chizik and defensive back Junior Rosegreen talk about Auburn's needs at the cornerback position.

Auburn, Ala.--Losing three seniors at the cornerback position made finding replacements a high priority for the Auburn football team's defense this spring.

With only junior Carlos Rogers returning with experience, the opportunity has been there for someone to step forward and take control of the other corner spot.

Things haven't worked out exactly as hoped for Coach Gene Chizik this spring as none of the challengers to replace Roderick Hood, Horace Willis and Rashaud Walker have made a move this spring. That prompted Chizik to make a move on Tuesday when Junior Rosegreen got the call to line up at the corner opposite Rogers.

Junior Rosegreen practices on Tuesday at cornerback.

A veteran at both cornerback as well as strong safety, where he started last season, Rosegreen has the talent and skills to fill the need at corner, but is best suited to play safety. Safety might not be the best fit for the 2003 Tigers though with experience at safety behind Rosegreen and none at the cornerback position.

"We took Junior Rosegreen and started working him at corner," Chizik said. "Not that it's going to be a permanent move, but it's an insurance policy. If he had to play corner then we'll move him out there, but we'll mix and match and move people around wherever we have to put them to have a solid field back there. We just have to do what you have to do."

With Rosegreen and Rogers at corner and safeties Donnay Young and Roshard Gilyard in the defensive backfield, the secondary had a physical look to it on Tuesday. A powerful hitter, Gilyard's experience would be a welcome addition to the Auburn secondary. That could be especially important with Auburn opening next season at home against the powerful USC passing game led by offensive coordinator Norm Chow.

"The four that Coach put back there, we were kind of clicking," Rosegreen said. "Being that all of us were clicking and all of us were holding our own, he might take that into consideration. Roshard, this is his senior year, he should be able to step up and make things happen. Both of them have played in the system and both have game experience. They should be ready to make plays back there at safety.

"I love the challenge," Rosegreen said about playing cornerback. "I've played in this defense for one year and I'm so confident because I know the whole defense. Being that you know the whole defense, you have a little confidence in yourself. Wherever Coach Chizik puts me I'm going to give it my all. I'm not going to hurt the team, I'm going to help the team. Whatever they throw at me I'm going to be ready for it.

"I like to play man-to-man with a good receiver. I'll never back down from a challenge. You'll either beat me or I'll beat you, but nine times out of ten I'm going to get you more than you get me. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and get better at the corner position. In the summer I'll try to get better on my technique."

The group of Lamel Ages, Dee Durham, Montae Pitts and Kevin Hobbs has shown signs of being capable of getting the job done at cornerback, but the consistency the coaching staff has been looking for at the position has been missing. That prompted the move of Rosegreen to corner, something that Chizik said hopes isn't a permanent move.

"Corner is my biggest concern right now," Chizik said. "Anybody that comes in at corner is going to get a hard, quick, very, very good look. We'll play with a young one if we have to play with a young one. That doesn't matter. If they have the tools and the skills they can learn, we'll make it simple enough.

"I think it's different than linebacker," Chizik added. "There's only a few things they have to be good at. If they have the talent and some of the things we're looking for athletically, that's one of the positions you can play the quickest in my opinion."

Along with Ages, Durham, Pitts and Hobbs, the Tigers will also get some help this fall when junior college transfer David Irons joins the team as well as high school standout Patrick Lee. While he admits that will help sort out the best at corner, Rosegreen said he hopes his move will push the guys behind him to take their game to another level before two-a-days begins in August.

"I think it will help because Kevin Hobbs works out with me and the extra stuff I do in the weight room he does with me," Rosegreen said. "Kevin Hobbs and Dee Durham and Montae have to step it up a little bit because I'm going to hold my own and I'm going to do whatever it takes to help our defense be the best. Everybody around us is saying we're going to be one of the top defenses in the SEC. We can't read the papers. We have to go out there and play the game. We're just going to keep working and get better and better day by day."



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