Wounded Whitaker To Take Redshirt Year

Coach Gus Malzahn has injury updates on Jeff Whitaker and other players as the Tigers prepare for this week's Homecoming game vs. Western Carolina.

Auburn, Ala.--Jeff Whitaker, who went into preseason drills running first team at defensive tackle, won't play this year due to a knee injury suffered in August, but will return for the 2014 season as a redshirt senior.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said on Tuesday that Whitaker, a three-year lettterman from Warner Robins, Ga., is a no-go for the rest of the season.

The 6-4, 307-pound lineman played in all 14 games as a reserve in 2010 for the national champions. Whitaker started all 13 games as a sophomore and started in six games and played in three others as a reserve last year. He missed the other three games due to injury.

"Obviously, that is a blow for our defense, but at the same time it will be good for the future," Malzahn said.

"Jeff has kind of been playing banged up the last year or so anyway," Malzahn said. "I think it will be good for him to be healthy. That is our goal for him--to get him healthy for next year and have a chance to have his best season."

Whitaker has 44 career tackles with three for losses, five pass deflections, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

Fellow defensive tackle Gabe Wright said that Whitaker has been working hard on rehabbing his torn meniscus. "Jeff has been working his tail off," the junior said. "Every day, Tuesday and Thursday while we're doing weights, he's doing something a little bit individualized working on his knee. Jeff has always been a high level guy, a high respectable guy.

Jeffrey Whitaker was a highly recruited prospect at Warner Robins High who chose Auburn over Georgia and a variety of other colleges.

"He's not one of those guys who will linger or stay down about it," said Wright, who had two sacks in Auburn's victory over Ole Miss. "He is always on the sideline with us, getting us up. He's just that type of guy. He will be the first one to congratulate you when you make a play. He is another one of those guys this season is dedicated to."

The coach noted that starting linebacker Cassanova McKinzy, who suffered a "stinger" in the victory over Ole Miss, has been cleared to play and will return to practice on Tuesday evening. McKinzy was transported to East Alabama Medical Center on Saturday night, but returned to Jordan-Hare Stadium in the second half.

Quarterback Nick Marshall, who hurt a knee in the fourth quarter vs. the Rebels, will be ready for action, too, the head coach said. "We expect him to be ready to go," Malzahn said. "I don't think it is anything that is too big a deal."

Linebacker/star Justin Garrett, who missed the Ole Miss game with a foot injury and an ankle injury, is definitely out this week and unlikely to be ready to play anytime soon. He could receive a medical hardship redshirt this year, but the coach said whether or not that will happen has not been determined. "We are just going to see how he reacts," Malzahn stated. "He wants to play."

Malzahn also pointed out that C.J. Uzomah saw action for just one play vs. Ole Miss because the coaches are trying to get the junior tight end back to full speed after being slowed by a leg problem.

The Tigers, 4-1, will take on Western Carolina from the Southern Conference for Homecoming on Saturday. Kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium is 1 p.m. CDT. The Catamounts will bring a 1-5 record into the contest.

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