Turnaround Season for Owens And His Team

Auburn junior defensive end LaDarius Owens talks about what it would mean to win the BCS Championship.

Newport Beach, Calif.---After a redshirt year followed by two seasons as a backup bouncing between positions, LaDarius Owens has found a home at defensive end.

The 6-2, 250-pound junior is scheduled to make his 12th start of the season when Auburn takes on Florida State on Monday in the BCS National Championship Game. Kickoff time from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is set for 7:20 p.m. CST (5:20 p.m. local time).

Asked about his multiple moves from linebacker to end to linebacker and back to end where he has become a key player for this season's team, Owens said, "It has been a ride. It is truly a blessing. It is a dream come true. I am still on my high right now. We just have to finish it off with this game and it will be complete."

Owens credits his new position coach, Rodney Garner, will helping him develop. Owens has 28 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for lost yardage and two sacks as a junior after combining for 21 tackles his first two seasons playing for the Tigers.

Asked how much better he is as a player this season, Owens said, "I would say times 10. You get better with being able to play. Coach Garner, with the opportunity he has blessed me with and the things he has taught me, has taken my game to the next level. That has let me be able to help my team."

Owens and Garner both have strong connections to the Auburn football program. James Owens, uncle of the defensive end, was a standout fullback for Coach Shug Jordan starting in 1969. Garner was an All-SEC offensive lineman for Coach Pat Dye playing on SEC championship teams in 1987 and 1988.

Owens notes that Garner is as excited about the possibility of winning the national title as the players are. "He is an Auburn man," the defensive end said. "He is a player with a whistle. He played at Auburn so he is our brother as well as our coach so he wants this just as much as we do."

Owens is part of a defensive front that Coach Rodney Garner constantly rotates to keep his players fresh.

The junior end from Bessemer said he really wants to bring the crystal football trophy back to Auburn from California. "I do know that it is the number one thing I want right now. To be able to go home with a win vs. Bama and a national championship, that would be the best feeling in the world."

Asked what he believes made this turnaround season possible, Owens didn't hesitate when he cited work ethic. "That is our big thing," he said. "I was talking to Tre Mason the other night and we were saying that we don't feel anybody works as hard as us.

"From where we have been going from 3-9 to this season with Coach Malzahn coming in and him straining us to see what we would be able to do, the way we have worked starting in the offseason is why we have been able to stay fresh in the fourth quarter of games and continue to fight teams," Owens pointed out.

"It would be a shame to come this far and let it slip out of our hands," he added. "We are highly motivated and determined to get this win."

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