Auburn Defensive Ends Looking to Step Up

Comments from Nosa Eguae and Corey Lemonier are featured in this Auburn football report.

Auburn, Ala.--One would expect that losing three starters, including Lombardi Award winner Nick Fairley, from one of the best defensive lines in nation last season would place the burden of leadership squarely on the shoulders of Auburn's only returning starter on the front four. However, redshirt sophomore Nosa Eguae views it a tad differently.

"I don't see myself as a leader--by no means," Eguae said. "We have a bunch of guys. We're all sophomores, some juniors, some freshmen, but as a cohesive group we all talked about going out there and holding ourselves accountable first and then holding the group accountable. And, we're going to be great. That is what we're trying to do."

While the "strength in numbers" expression often proves true, the Tigers will count on Eguae to be a steadying influence for the young and inexperienced linemen stepping into more substantial roles. He opened the 2010 campaign as a backup, but by midseason he had moved ahead of Michael Goggans on the depth chart.

Eguae notes that leading "by example" is important to him and the team. "I'm just going to go out there each day, do what I have to do to make sure that come September 3rd we win the football game," he said of Auburn's opener vs. Utah State. "That's all I'm going to worry about."

Eguae said that players on the front four worked hard during the offseason and are ready to compete in preseason camp. "I talk to those guys, and they're just ready to strap up the helmet, strap up the shoulder pads and just work. I mean, you've got to love it. As far as the young guys are concerned, they're all excited just to go out there and work."

Backing up Eguae at defensive end are sophomore Craig Sanders, redshirt freshman Justin Delaine and junior Joel Bonomolo, who is also competing for playing time on the other side where junior Dee Ford and Corey Lemonier are competing for a starting role with Antoine Carter being a senior in 2010.

Of the players who are expected to line up behind Eguae, Sanders is the only one with game experience and most of that came on special teams. Also, Sanders is expected to spend at least part of his time at tackle.

"I told them that it's not going to be cupcakes," Eguae said of playing defensive end in the SEC. "You're going to make mistakes, but it's about making those mistakes and getting better and learning from it--not making the same mistakes twice.

"When we have guys that are not making the same mistake twice and they're going out there and excelling every day and getting better, everything's going to take care of itself," Eguae added. "We're going to be a stronger defensive front."

Eguae pointed out that like Sanders, at times he may slide inside to play tackle, an area of the defense short on experience even before junior backup tackle Derrick Lykes was dismissed from the team for what Auburn coaches said on Thursday was a violation of team rules.

"We are working so hard in the weight room so if need be, if we need to go inside and make plays," Eguae said."I'm going to put my No. 90 jersey on and try to do it like Nick Fairley does it," he said.

On the other side at end a young player pushing for a starting spot is Lemonier, who tallied 17 tackles, five tackles for a loss and two sacks last season. Lemonier, who now weighs 240 pounds, said he has improved his game by focusing on the details of playing end.

Corey Lemonier

Asked what he is focusing on, Lemonier said, "Just doing the little things because I think last year I would just start not paying attention to the details and I kind of missed out on a lot of plays, but now, going into the summer and now into two-a-days, I'm more focused on the details and just can't wait to play."

Lemonier expects a lot from this year's team despite low expectations for the defending SEC and national champions.

"They got it wrong," he said. "I'm going to just play and just try to prove them wrong. I think we're going to be good because we've got a lot of players coming back, a lot of young players. The freshmen coming in, they can contribute real fast. We have got a lot of speed on the team so we can expect a lot.

Lemonier will be competing for a starting spot with Ford, who is coming off a strong spring, as well as redshirt freshman LaDarius Owens, who is making the move from linebacker to end, a position he played in high school.

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