Young Defenders Make Their Mark In Spring Game

Several young defensive players saw extensive action in Saturday's A-Day game.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite holding out defensive starters Demarco McNeil, Spencer Johnson, Reggie Torbor, Dontarrious Thomas, Karlos Dansby and Junior Rosegreen, the defense was still able to steal the show in Saturday's annual A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. While true freshman Will Herring earned the defensive MVP for the game with one interception and numerous tackles, defensive end Bret Eddins should have won some kind of honor.

Playing with the first-team defense, Eddins tallied four sacks and four tackles to help in totally disrupting quarterback Josh Sullivan's day. Finishing with just 78 yards, Sullivan was harassed all day by Eddins and company as they closed on the spring on a high note.

"I think it helped me out a lot having Spencer, Demarco and Reggie on the bench today," Eddins said. "They had to give everybody else a chance to get some sacks and make some plays. It was good. I think a lot of guys went out there and got some good work in. I think some of the guys needed the experience. Overall it was good."

Will Herring won the A-Day MVP on the defensive side of the ball.

In addition to Herring, players like Karibi Dede, Kevis Burnam, Lemarcus Rowell, Montae Pitts and Mike Sherill all had impressive days on the defensive side of the ball. Rowell finished with seven tackles while Burnam had six tackles and one for a loss. Dede finished with four tackles and returned a Jason Campbell pass 24 yards for a touchdown.

Eddins said it was good to see some of the young guys play well in front of a large crowd for the first time. "I think it's good to kind of get acclimated," Eddins said. "We practice and stuff and scrimmage enough where you're kind of used to the speed of the game, but when you get a crowd out there and the refs it really has a good game feel to it. I think it's good for a lot of the young guys, it's good for the older guys, too. It helps a lot them because they get a chance to do some coaching with the young guys and maybe see some things they need to work on."

Another one of the young players that continued his impressive spring was linebacker Travis Williams. Firmly established as the starter at weakside linebacker heading into two-a-days in August, the sophomore had six tackles and two interceptions Saturday while playing with both the first and second-team defenses. He said that he's really made it a point to learn the ins and outs of this defense to put himself in the right position to make plays.

"Last year not knowing the defense, I couldn't really go full speed," Williams said. "Now that I know the defense I can go full speed and try to make plays. Last year I just ran around. I knew the defense, but I really didn't. I wasn't too confident, but now I'm playing with a lot of confidence.

"I'm just letting it loose, not worrying about this or that, just worrying about your job. As long as you know your job you can do it. Last year I was kind of hesitant. This year I'm full speed going to the ball."

Karibi Dede lays the wood to tailback Brandon Jacobs during Saturday's A-Day game. Dede has been a strong performer at free safety all spring.

A former high school quarterback at Opelika, Herring has shown promise since he arrived on the Auburn campus last fall for two-a-days. Smart and instinctive on the field, he utilizes his quarterbacking background to good effect on defense as a signal-caller in the secondary. After drawing rave reviews from both Tommy Tuberville and Gene Chizik most of last season as a scout team and special teams player, Herring had gone virtually unnoticed this spring as Dede and Donnay Young got most of the action. Saturday he made the most of his chance to shine in front of over 38,000 Auburn fans.

"It's been a lot easier just knowing where to be," Herring said of the defense. "Not so much thinking out there, but it just kind of being second-nature to you. I have a long way to go over the summer. Hopefully, through watching film and getting more reps and stuff, we'll go out there and do pass skells (skeleton drills with just the linebackers and secondary going against the backs and receivers) a couple of times a week during the summer. Hopefully, through all that I'll get to where I need to be."

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