Enter sophomore Montravius Adams.
A trim 305 pounds this preseason and looking every bit the part of the player that was one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country coming out of high school last year, Adams is ready to become a player the Tigers can depend on even if that means going back to his old ways. From cutting his hair off to even thinking about a number change, Adams is ready to turn the corner in 2014.
“I’ve been making a lot of changes to be the old guy that I was,” Adams said. “I feel like I can be better. I thought about trying to maybe going back to 52. I think I’m going to stick with No. 1.”
Playing some defensive end in the spring just in case he’s needed at the position this fall, Adams has spent the majority of his time in preseason camp working at defensive tackle. That means being alongside seniors Gabe Wright, Jeffrey Whitaker, Angelo Blackson and Ben Bradley. With the young guy of the group pushing them hard Adams said he believes they’ll respond by working harder themselves.
“I watched the players before I got here and I watch them now,” Adams said. “I’ve seen a lot of players improve. I’m pushing, trying to start. I know if I was starting and somebody came in and tried to get my spot, I know I’d be better. I’m pretty sure they’re working to be better.”
Adams makes a play in his first career game last season vs. Washington State
Whitaker is a player that Adams is particularly close with after the fifth-year senior became a close friend with him during the recruiting process. Both coming from Georgia as highly-recruited players, they formed a kinship that Adams said is even stronger now that they’ve got another year together on the Auburn roster.
“Jeff is a great leader and just brings all of us together,” Adams said. “I talked to a lot of guys from that 3-9 season and that’s what they said they were lacking, everybody wasn’t together. With us being together it just makes everybody better.”
Focusing on improving his game from a year ago when he was a backup for the Tigers, Adams said doing a better job with the little things has been a big deal for him as has his improved fitness level.
“I know I improved a whole lot from last year to this year,” Adams said. “I feel like I’m doing a lot better. I’ve still got to get better with techniques and hands and everything.
“It’s (strength and conditioning program) done a lot for me because I go home and go to different places and people say ‘your body looks better’. I’m just happy to be with Coach (Ryan) Russell. I go in there every day and work out.”
Now Adams and the Tigers continue the goal of getting ready for the season opener against Arkansas. No doubt most of what you’ll hear leading up to the game will be about the Auburn offense, but Adams said it’s time people starting talking about the defense and that time is now.
“I look at ESPN every day and when they mention Auburn all they take about is the offense even though we had Dee Ford,” Adams said. “They still just don’t mention the defense. That’s why I really think we’re working so hard this year on the defense and the defensive line, linebackers, everybody. It’s just kind of disrespectful not to mention the defense because we’re out there working too. We’re playing and we’re helping win.”
To earn that respect on defense Auburn must find a replacement for Ford as a pass rusher and show they’ve got the ability to force the opposition into negative plays. Adams said he believes they are on the right track to getting it done and he can’t wait to see what happens.
“In my opinion I really think we’re going to be better than last year in pass rush, even though Carl is out, but when he comes back I know he’s going to contribute,” Adams said. “We’re still going to be good. We’re out there working and we’ve got the best coach we can get in Coach G (Rodney Garner). With that guy, as long as we keep working and doing what he says to do we’re going to be good either way.”