Auburn, Ala.—Back closer to full speed after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot during the Arkansas game that caused him to miss the next five games, redshirt freshman defensive end LaDarius Owens said he's ready to go now after getting back into the swing of things during bowl practices. Expecting to play a role on defense for the Tigers against Virginia, Owens said the defense is coming around as the team heads towards a Christmas break.
"It feels like two-a-days," Owens said. "It's rougher for me because I'm just getting used to practicing, I was out of practice so long with an injury. It's fun getting out there with coach Chiz. It's intense, but it's fun with everybody getting at it and taking it to another level."
Recovering slowly from his injury Owens said it has been tough to sit and watch his team struggle in the rivalry games down the stretch. Getting back to play some in the Iron Bowl game against Alabama was a big step for him and he said it has carried over into practice.
"It was real hard," Owens said. "I had just started getting real playing time and making some plays and I was thinking I was going to play more next week, and more the next week, then the injury took me out for what, five or six games. It was hard watching my team go into battle without me and not being able to help. Not knowing how long the injury would take, it was real stressful, but I just took it in and just worked out and rehabbed out as much as I could and I was able to get back in a few plays in the Iron Bowl. That's an experience you can't substitute for. I'm just trying to be positive about it and get better as time goes on."
Saying he's about 85 percent with the rest getting him closer to full speed for the bowl game Owens said he's really enjoyed the bowl practices because it has allowed him to get back to work and also because Gene Chizik has taken a more active role for the Tigers.
Taking over as the defensive coordinator for the bowl game, Chizik has made his presence known on the field with his aggressive coaching and honest assessment of the players. Owens said it has been something the team has needed and he has seen the improvements on every level.
"It's refreshing," Owens said. "He told us the first day we came in to practice with him as the defensive coordinator, don't listen to how he says anything because he's not trying to hurt your feelings, he's just coaching. He's pretty mean out there. You have to do what you have to do to get the message across, he's pretty blunt about what he wants and he wants exactness and he wants effort more than anything else.
With Owens back in the mix and freshman Devaunte Sigler coming on strong as he becomes more familiar with the defensive end position and gets over some nagging injuries himself, Coach Mike Pelton will have close to a full rotation at end for the first time since early in the season. Because of that Owens said he sees some good things for the defense against the Cavaliers.
"We haven't really had that all season," Owens said. "Guys should be more fresh throughout the game, there should be more energy coming off the bench and it should take us to another level and help us as a team, not worry about guys being fatigued in the fourth quarter. We'll still be able to inflict pain on the opponent, especially on the defensive line. Hopefully we'll be able to wear those guys down."