Whitaker Sheds Weight, Gains Quickness

Auburn defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker has gained speed since losing weight in the offseason.

Auburn, Ala.--While there may be less of Jeffrey Whitaker during his junior year as an Auburn football player, quarterbacks will likely see more of him in their backfields next season.

Whitaker, who played last fall at 312 pounds, spent the offseason shedding weight with head strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall. He's now down to a lighter, but still imposing, 301 pounds on his 6-4 frame.

"It's feeling good," said Whitaker. "I could go run, but not today. I'm just going to do it tomorrow, you know what I mean. It's feeling good."

Whitaker said the difference between his game before and after he lost weight is "night and day."

"Just got to get the hands where I need them to be," said the Warner Robins, Ga., native. "But just the get-offs and everything, just hustling to the rock—all that is just better."

Jeffrey Whitaker participates in a drill during spring practice.

A more explosive Whitaker will certainly help the Tigers get closer to reaching one of their goals for next season—fielding both the top-ranked rushing offense and rushing defense in the Southeastern Conference, a feat Auburn accomplished in 2010.

"When you have got that going in practice every day, it just makes it that much easier by game day because I'm going up against the best in practice and they're going up against the best in practice, so by the time it comes to game day, they have no chance. That's the rep we're trying to get back. I think we're in the right direction."

With defensive end Nosa Eguae out until fall camp, Dee Ford has been running with the first team at defensive end opposite Corey Lemonier. So far, Whitaker likes what he sees out of that combination.

"I'm excited," said Whitaker of lining up alongside the pass rushing duo. "That will create some opportunities for myself. We're excited to see them."

Whitaker also likes what he sees out of redshirt freshman defensive end Keymiya Harrell and sophomore Devaunte Sigler, who is working at defensive tackle after bulking up to 290 pounds in the offseason.

"We don't treat them like the younger guys," Whitaker said. "They have grown up, but they still have to grow up. It is great. The future's looking great, with me, without me."

Defensive line coach Mike Pelton noted Harrell is still in the developmental stage, but is "coming along."

"He's right where he needs to be," Pelton said. "He's giving effort. He's got to just keep continuing to work and continue to get in the weight room and do what he's got to do."

Pelton added that Ford, Whitaker and sophomore LaDarius Owens caught his eye as players who had good performances in Wednesday's officiated scrimmage.

As a unit the defensive linemen continue to get better, although they lack mental focus and made mistakes early in the scrimmage, said Pelton.

"I think they're starting to pick up some of the things we're trying to do, and really we're just trying to build some depth," he said.

The Tigers will practice Friday morning in preparation for Saturday's annual A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium, which is slated to kick off at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for the general public and free for Auburn students with Auburn Ignited cards.

A-Day game festivities will begin at 10 a.m. on the east side of the stadium, where bronzed statues of Auburn's three Heisman Trophy winners—Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson and Cam Newton—will be unveiled.


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