Atlanta, Ga.—One of seven true freshmen defensive players to play in all 12 Auburn games this season, safety Erique Florence came into the year as one of the most highly-decorated signees and has shown glimpses of that playing behind Neiko Thorpe in the secondary.
With a full season under his belt, and two weeks of bowl practices completed, he says things are beginning to fall into place for him.
"It's more comfortable for me coming in and not knowing what to expect and then getting into the flow," Florence points out. "Now, it's second nature to me. Everything's coming along smoothly now."
Just like many of his defensive teammates, Florence says you can definitely see the difference in the defense under the direction of Gene Chizik. Taking over the duties for the bowl game when Ted Roof left for Central Florida, Chizik has the attention of his players and Florence says when he speaks you listen.
"You definitely can see a change in the defense the last couple of weeks," Florence says. "We're very excited to show what we've got in the bowl game. People will be surprised, and very pleased, with how we play.
"You have to do everything right," Florence adds. "He's pretty much a defensive genius. Whatever he says is right."
Having the head coach as the defensive coordinator is something that Florence and his teammates have noted is important because he is there watching them every minute of the practice sessions. With that in mind he says it has caused them to be studious on and off the field about correcting the problems they had during the day.
"Some might say it's more intimidating because the head man is running the defense," Florence says. "They're scared to make mistakes. At the same time, if you make mistakes they should be corrected. It's a good thing to have Coach Chiz running the defense. You can definitely tell the difference."
Having a chance to earn win number eight and start 2012 off on a good note is something the coaches and players have talked about since the bowl bids went out. Florence notes for him it's all about momentum and a win would provide just that.
"It helps us build momentum going into next year," he says. "To know what we've got coming back is a great feeling for us. If we were down at first, now we're feeling more excited about playing in a bowl game and looking forward to next year."