Walk-on Impostor

With one of the fastest first steps off the ball in the country, Syracuse All-America candidate Dwight Freeney has been hard to simulate during preparation work for the Orangemen this week.

Jamaal Greer will not be one of the 65 Auburn players who suit up for the Tigers' contest with Syracuse Saturday night in The Carrier Dome, but that doesn't mean his role in the week of practice leading up to their clash with the Orangemen was not important.

The sophomore linebacker had the daunting task of simulating Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney. The two are comparable in size, Greer stands six-foot-two inches tall and weighs 222; Freeney is shorter at six-foot-one, but has some more beef weighing 250. The difference is Greer is a walk-on who dressed out in Freeney's No. 54 all week during practice, and Freeney is an All-America candidate who had 13 sacks in just seven games last season as a junior.

Jamaal Greer (54) tries to give Auburn's offensive line a preview of things to come Saturday in The Carrier Dome.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville says Freeney has been hard to simulate in practice because the Tigers don't have anyone that quick. Senior offensive tackle Kendall Simmons agrees and but says guys like Greer and Auburn's right defensive ends James Callier and Reggie Torbor have given him a pretty good picture of what to expect. "It's hard to simulate a guy like that," Simmons says. "It's hard, I think the guys we got are doing a pretty good job. It's hard for them to do that, to simulate a guy like that because of the game speed and that type of personality is totally different."

Simmons will be just one of many players along Auburn's offensive front who will have their hands full with Freeney, who already has six sacks and nine tackles for a loss in the Orangemen's first three games. Syracuse defensive coordinator Chris Rippon likes to move his versatile defensive end around a lot and start him from places all over the field. "All I know is he is a real good player and all of us are going to have to come to play, not just me," Simmons says. "Because he moves around so much, everybody is probably going to get a piece of him because he moves around just like James and Reggie do."

Kendall Simmons will try to keep Dwight Freeney from laying a finger on redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Campbell Saturday night.

Callier, who is almost identical in size to Freeney weighing just nine pounds less, is probably the best player the Tigers have to model Freeney. The starter at right end for Auburn says he doesn't think anyone can play the role of Freeney. "I try do the best that I can as James," he says. "I don't have a big name, I don't think (opponents) play my role. I think Kendall will be just fine."

Defensive end James Callier will try to disrupt the Syracuse offense.

Simmons, who is an All-America candidate of his own, will be the primary individual opponent for Freeney who lines up mostly at right end. The individual match-up of preseason All-Americans has Simmons ready for Saturday night. "It motivates me a lot because this is the first real challenge for me over all, for the season," he says. "I'm just going to play and try not to go out and over do it and do to much. I'm just going to the best job I can for our team."

As well as Freeney has played this season, he does not make up the entire Syracuse defense. Senior guard Hart McGarry says, "I am focused more on the overall defense," he says. "We scheme a little bit on offense to him, but not that much. It's not that big of a change. I'm basically trying to focus on their whole defense. I'm not concerned with just this one guy. You have a respect for an athlete such as him, but that's about it." Other Syracuse players are off to good starts as well. Safety Quentin Harris has a team-high 35 tackles in three games while fellow safety Keeon Walker is second with 23.

The Tigers are not trying to hide the fact that stopping Freeney is going to be a major challenge. Tuberville says, "We are going to have to focus where he is at. We are not going to build our offense around him, but the thing that we want to do is make sure we are aware of where he is at."

As interesting as the Simmons-Freeney matchup is going to be Saturday, the one between Freeney and Auburn's tight ends could also feature some great head-to-head battles. As for the challenge of stopping Freeney, sophomore Robert Johnson says he is looking forward to it. "Our technique has been taught so well, and our first step is also fast, so it is going to be a great matchup. I have a lot of confidence in our tight ends. We're just going to see what happens. Our coaches are saying this week that this might be the best defensive lineman that we have faced. I guess, it is going to the best tight ends that he has to face."

Lorenzo Diamond, who splits time with Johnson at tight end, says he is also aware that Freeney is going to the best defensive lineman the Tigers have seen this season. "He has the best first step I have ever seen in my life," Diamond says. "We are really going to have to concentrate on him and get him contained in some kind of way."

If the Tigers have success Saturday night in The Carrier Dome, than they might wait til they get back in Auburn to give out the game ball to a player who didn't even make the trip to Syracuse.

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