Young Defender Making Progress In Practice

Comments from Auburn players are featured in this report as the Tigers continue practices for their bowl trip.

Auburn, Ala.--Freshman Devaunte Sigler said he is not sure he can live up to the high expectations of his position coach, but he does seem certain that he likes playing defensive end, the third position he has lined up at the past two seasons.

Auburn defensive line coach Mike Pelton said that Sigler's efforts in practice have been one of the highlights of bowl preparations as the Tigers get ready to play the University of Virginia Cavaliers on New Year's Eve.

"He just looks like a different guy," Pelton said regarding Sigler's performance in recent practices. "That is guy is a guy you are going to talk about around Auburn for years to come."

Asked what the freshman has done to improve recently, Pelton said, "Just how he has taken his technique to another level. He is starting to look like a defensive lineman. Not that he didn't, but we have got to remember that guy played linebacker in high school.

"Every day he has done something that has just opened my eyes," Pelton added. "Even the guys in the meeting room are talking about him. He is just benefitting from being here."

Sigler, who played linebacker at B.C. Rain High School in Mobile last season, said he has taken the approach that every day he is on a football field he wants to finish it as a better player. "I have just been working hard lately,"?he said.

Talking about his coach's comments that he could develop into one of the top defensive linemen to play for the Tigers, Sigler said, "I?wouldn't say that. I am just going to keep working and keep striding to help the team out any way I can."

Sigler said he is currently up to 6-5, 285 pounds. As a high school senior he played linebacker as a 250-pounder. He noted that he figured he would be putting his hand on the ground in college because of his size.

"It really wasn't a surprise to me because I knew I was going to gain some weight," he said. "I kind of knew I wasn't going to come in and play linebacker."

He opened the 2011 season at tackle, but moved outside to end during the season after the Tigers had injuries at the position. Despite being less than full speed for part of the season with a shoulder problem, Sigler managed to play in all 12 regular season games and has 10 tackles with six solos and one sack.

Devaunte Sigler

The freshman pointed out that he feels more comfortable lined up at end than inside at tackle.

"I?think it is a better position for me because I can move a little bit more," Sigler said. "Playing down at defensive tackle there really isn't much space, but at defensive end I can cover my ground and I really have enough speed to run from sideline to sideline. It is much better for me."

LaDarius Owens, a redshirt freshman, was converted from linebacker to defensive end this season. He noted that he has been impressed with Sigler's progress.

"Sig just does whatever they ask him to do," Owens said. "He was undersized at defensive tackle, but you couldn't tell by the way he plays. He has heart and plays hard no matter where he is--he doesn't really care. I admire that, him being young, wherever coach puts him at he just does what he needs to do."

Sigler said that he finds the end position easier for him to play because it is a good fit for him skills-wise because of his quickness and comfort level playing in spake. Size-wise the end position also fits. "I really don't want to go gain any weight, just muscle," Sigler said.

With head coach Gene Chizik serving as the interim defensive coordinator as the Tigers prepare for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a variety of defensive players have mentioned they are enjoying watching him work as a coordinator and a position coach. Sigler is one of them, pointing the head coach "really gets after us."

"I like Coach Chizik as a defensive coordinator because he tells us what he wants us to do, and how he wants us to do it, and that his expectations are high for us so we just try to go out there and try to make him proud," the defensive end said.

Sigler is predicting that Auburn fans will see an improved defense on New Year's Eve at the Georgia Dome. "We have come a long way from the beginning of the season," he said. "In just the last couple of days I feel we have improved a lot because everyone is running to the ball. There is a lot of contact going on. We are going to shock some people."

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers had their second full pads practice in the past three sessions. Chizik and his staff will put the team through another workout on Wednesday before sending the players home for a Christmas break. After that the Tigers will have four more practices in Atlanta starting on Dec. 26th.

*Jonathon Mincy is working as first team cornerback in practice this week with true freshman Jermaine Whitehead running No. 1 at nickel. Mincy said he is getting a kick out of seeing the head coach on the practice field as the defensive coordinator and noted Chizik seems to be really enjoying the role.

Jonathon Mincy is a redshirt freshman for the Tigers.

Mincy also said he is excited about getting to play for the first time at Georgia Dome where he watched Atlanta Falcons games while growing up in nearby Decatur. "I have never played in the Dome," he said. "In high school ball we always got knocked out in the last (state playoff) round to there. It is going to be very exciting for me. It is going to be a real big deal for me."

*Whitehead said that based on watching video of Virginia he expects the Cavaliers to throw the ball a lot in the bowl game. He said that Virginia has a talented slot receiver he will be matched up against in Atlanta.

*Defensive end Owens missed seven games with an injury, but was back at the end of the season although not full speed. Owens said on Tuesday that he is closer to full speed and that should help the Tigers be able to keep a good playing rotation in the bowl game.

*Defensive line coach Pelton said there is a battle going on for playing time at tackle with sophomore Kenneth Carter currently ahead of true freshman Gabe Wright.

Pelton said both will see action vs. Virginia and they should continue their battle for the starting spot into the 2012 season. Carter started the first games before Wright moved up to No. 1 for the next three. Carter got his ninth start in the last regular season game.

*Chizik's Auburn record going into the bowl game is 29-10. The most previous wins for an Auburn coach in his first three seasons was by Terry Bowden, whose record was 28-5-1 from 1993-95.


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