Defensive Line Looking For Improvement

Auburn is looking for more from its defensive line in the 2012 season.

Auburn, Ala.—No matter what level of football you're talking about, if you look at any great defense it starts with a defensive line that makes plays and controls the line of scrimmage. That's something Auburn's defense didn't have in 2011, but Coach Mike Pelton is looking for bigger and better things from his group this time around.

From last season's end and through spring practice Pelton has been showing and preaching the numbers from last year to his defensive line. Auburn finished 81st in total defense, 77th in sacks, and incredibly 94th in rushing defense last season, something junior Kenneth Carter said Pelton repeats to them daily to make sure they understand the improvement that must come on the field.

"We hear them all the time," Carter said. "It's on repeat every day. It's a lot of motivation because you hear it so much now and you never want to hear it again."

One thing that Pelton has going for him this season is a larger group of veterans and a much deeper talent pool to choose from. Just about three deep at every defensive line position, junior defensive end Nosa Eguae noted that having more bodies is a huge plus for the guys up front.

"It's awesome," Eguae said. "Just to see 11 or 12 guys competing for jobs is something that I haven't been a part of since I've been here. This is my fourth fall camp and we've never had this type of depth. It's nice to see. You just see guys competing and that's the biggest thing."

Auburn's defensive line waits to start practice

With veterans across the board the defensive line should be in a much better position for success in 2012, but even with more than a dozen players available at the four positions there's still just one senior (Jamar Travis) in the group. Eguae said it's something they are battling with early in camp, but he feels like it's getting better.

"One thing is that he's (Pelton) having to push a little bit, but we're trying to get to that level where we push ourselves," Eguae said. "We're still trying to grow in that. We came out a little lackadaisical today. Yesterday everybody was so hyped for that first day. It's something we've got to work on, starting the practice and especially finishing the practice, which I think we did today."

Eguae and Carter both missed spring practice after having surgery and are getting their first taste of Brian VanGorder's defense on the field, making it an especially important offseason for both. Even with a spring practice under their belts the rest of the defensive line had plenty to work on this summer in voluntary practices as well. Pelton said that's sometimes tough for a defensive lineman to understand and he wants his group to understand exactly where they stand this preseason.

"You know, it's hard for a defensive lineman to get the concept over the summer, because without a coach out there, you're not sure what they're doing, and you're not sure if they're doing it the exact way you want them to do it," Pelton said. "This summer, a lot of them read in the newspaper and hear people talk about, you know, this group is going to be special and a lot of them believe that. So, you know, bottom line is you've got to come to work. We were 11th in defensive line in our conference.

"I think we were 86th for the whole deal, so that's where you're at right now. That's the perception of our defense, and we've got to improve. We've got to come out and work, and that's what it's going to take. It's going to take every rep, every day. It's going to take demanding, and they've got to understand that. That's just the way it is. We've got to continue to practice hard, to drive them hard, and they're just going to have to come up to our standards."

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