Young Defensive Back Making His Presence Known

This Auburn football player discusses his development and the competition for playing time as a college player.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the most overlooked signees in Auburn's class for 2002 was quarterback/athlete Will Herring from nearby Opelika High School.

An option-oriented quarterback in high school who impressed the Auburn coaching staff in a summer camp with his speed and knack for playing the football in the secondary, Herring was offered by the Tigers as a safety and came to the team last fall looking to make an impact.

While that didn't happen immediately, Herring did impress the coaching staff with his football smarts and willingness to work hard. Taking a redshirt year to learn more about the defensive side of the ball, the 6-3, 214 Herring came out this spring ready to challenge for the starting job at free safety.

Will Herring

"I kind of expected it to come about how it did," Herring tells Inside The Auburn Tigers of his first year. "I wasn't going to settle for an excuse not to work hard my first year here, I was going to do everything I could. Things picked up quickly, but there is still a long way I have to go as far as making the right reads. Everything has to happen mentally first before you can actually do it. It's not too bad."

The learning process paid big dividends for Herring this spring as his play at free safety earned him the Defensive MVP in the A-Day game. Showing a nose for the ball and a physical nature that fits with Auburn's already imposing defense, he will be in the hunt along with Donnay Young and Karibi Dede for the vacant spot left by Travaris Robinson.

"It was real exciting," Herring says of the spring. "After being around almost a year and plugging in here and there, it was a lot more exciting than sitting over there not doing much. I think I made a lot of strides in the offseason. It was good last year to play the scout team and get a feel for the other side of the ball. I definitely had a blast in the spring and I hope to get better over the summer. This summer is going to be huge for me as well as everybody else to get bigger and faster. That will add to our success next year."

Herring is shown during a summer 2002 workout at the football complex.

Last summer set the stage for a strong season by the Tigers. A dedicated group of players worked day after day to get in better shape and improve their technique. The result was a team that improved game after game and finished the season 9-4 with wins over Alabama and Penn State to close out the season. Herring says this summer will be a big part of the success Auburn has in 2003.

"Particularly for me as well as anybody else in my boat who got redshirted last year this summer is a lot more important," Herring notes. "You know you have a serious chance of seeing a lot of playing time next year. Hopefully, things fall the way I like them too. It's the time of year where you want to put on that five or 10 extra pounds and get a step faster. We just need to get ready for the season."

In a three-way battle for a starting job, Herring says that he sees the competition as a healthy thing for this football team. With veterans on both sides of the ball to look up to and learn from every day in practice, he predicts this team is headed towards a fun year beginning with a matchup against Top 10 USC at home on Aug. 30.

"It's a good competitiveness out there," Herring says. "We're all in this together, we're all on the same team and pulling for one major goal. We all love to play football, if we didn't enjoy it we wouldn't be here. We all want to be out there on the field, but unfortunately only one of us can be out there at a time. We're all in this together, we're going to do whatever it takes to get this team where they need to be."

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