Auburn, Ala.—Playing linebacker as a freshman in 2010 while being redshirted, LaDarius Owens never seemed to fit in with Coach Ted Roof's system and made the switch to defensive end the next season. The last two seasons the speedy Owens has played mostly in a backup role at defensive end behind Corey Lemonier, Dee Ford and Nosa Eguae, but this spring it's a different story and a different role for Owens.
Trimming down to more comfortable weight with the help of Ryan Russell and the Strength and Conditioning staff at Auburn, Owens is now 243 pounds and fighting for a job at middle linebacker for the Tigers. Getting back in the groove at the position, Owens says he's excited about the opportunity he has been given.
"It's going very well," Owens says. "The transition has been a process, from starting back from when the new coaches got hired. I didn't really know where they'd put me, so I thought it would be easier to lose weight than to gain it, so I dropped just 15 pounds, and with the weight program with Coach Russell, it was easy to do that.
"Once I got down I liked how I felt," he adds. "It was a process to go from trying to be defensive end to learning how to read offenses and making calls, but I'm comfortable with it and I'm happy with it right now. It's starting to slow down for me already. I think I'm going to like it a lot."
While the move made sense for Owens and the defense the last two seasons in terms of his production, in other ways it was a huge question mark considering the lack of depth for the Tigers at linebacker in both 2011 and 2012. Asked when he wanted to make the move back to the position, Owens says in reality he never wanted to leave.
"I just wanted to get on the field the best way I could so I was at end or whatever," Owens says. "But everything happens for a reason. Being at end helps me deal with linemen really easy. It got me to adapt to it, just like Saturday when we had our first scrimmage, we did inside drill and it was my first time doing it from linebacker since my redshirt freshman year.
"We did inside and it was real comfortable for me to come downhill and get my hands on linemen. I tell the guys all the time that it's fun now. I get a head start at them. Usually when I'm down at the trenches, it's just like, bam, right there. But now I've got a head start at them so now I think I've got the advantage."
Working with Jake Holland, Kris Frost and Chris Landrum at mike linebacker, Owens says that his goal this spring isn't to just participate. Heading into his junior season with the Tigers he notes that he wants to get on the field and help win games.
"I didn't move to linebacker to watch or to just add depth," Owens says. "I want to compete and that's why I put in so much time off the field to study and watch film. Right now my biggest thing is learning the coverages and basically getting comfortable with it to where I don't have to think. "I'm just out there knowing where to go and remembering to make calls to help the other guys go like the secondary and the defensive line. So my goal really is just to get better and get more comfortable at the position so I have something to build on in the summer and then compete in the fall for a starting job for the first game."