2004 Spring Practice Preview: Defensive Ends

"Fresh blood" at defensive ends could make for an interesting spring.

Auburn, Ala.--When the Auburn Tigers begin spring practice on Feb. 29 they will do so without some familiar faces on the defensive side of the ball.

One of the biggest losses from last season's team is at defensive end where Reggie Torbor was a fixture for the Tigers since his redshirt freshman season. Coach Terry Price says that while the Tigers have the talent to get the job done, his guys have a big hole to fill with Torbor's departure.

"I have a lot of experience coming back," Price says. "Obviously, the best player I've had the last three or four years, who's started just about every game, is gone. With that he takes a lot of leadership and a lot of playing ability away. We've got a great group overall coming back. It will be interesting to see how they do during spring because we'll add some fresh blood into the mix as far as some new players and some players that didn't play much last year. It will be an interesting spring."

While Torbor's experience is gone from the weakside position, the strongside is in good hands with seniors Bret Eddins and Jay Ratliff returning.

Bret Eddins

Both have the ability to make plays at the position and Eddins (6-5, 265) is coming off a solid junior season when he finished with 20 tackles, five for losses, and three and a half sacks. Ratliff (6-5, 272), battling through several nagging injuries, had just seven tackles on the season, but has the size and speed to do some damage when healthy. Price says their productivity on the field may not be as important as the example they set for their younger teammates this spring.

"Anytime you have experience that usually breeds leadership," Price says. "With all the young guys we have to develop on the weakside it will be good to have some older guys to show them the ropes and how it is in SEC play. They can help them understand how tough and how physical it can be in league play. Hopefully, the older guys can show some of the younger guys how it's done."

One of the players the coaches are most anxious to see in action this spring is athletic Stanley McClover from Dillard High in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. A powerhouse on the field, the 6-3, 250-pounder has all the tools to be successful on the collegiate level. Forced to sit out last season as a partial qualifier, McClover will get a chance to practice with the defense this spring after terrorizing the offense on the scout team last fall.

"We're going to start him off on the weakside," Price says of McClover. "Honestly, I'm going to push him in the spring like I don't know anything about him. I haven't had a chance to work with him a lot personally, but everybody talks about how well he's done on the scout team. I'm going to have my first chance to work with him this spring. After that I'll have a better idea of how he fits into the defense. Hopefully, he can provide some pass rush from the weakside. He'll get a chance to compete for the job."

Jay Ratliff will be counted on to have a big season for the Tigers.

Also on the weakside this spring will be part-time starter Doug Langenfeld and steadily-improving Marquies Gunn.

Langenfeld was a terror last season until a sprained ankle basically put him out of commission for the last half of the season. Gunn, despite weighing just 210 pounds at the end of the season, proven he has the ability to make plays off the corner. Price says he's anxious to see what Gunn can do now that he's up to 225 pounds.

"The thing we're getting from Marquies Gunn is experience and speed," Price says. "He's a good athlete. He was just a pup last year out there playing. He didn't get the luxury of having a redshirt and had to play. Hopefully, that experience will pay dividends this spring when he has the chance to compete for the starting job on the weakside. He's got good speed and good quicks. He's want you want in a defensive end. Now is his chance to see how much he's grown up and if he continues to develop into a good player."

Unfortunately the news isn't good for sophomore Kyle Derozan. After having shoulder problems for the second-straight year, he underwent surgery late in 2003 to remove bone chips from his shoulder. Price says that he should be full speed when the Tigers report for two-a-days in August, but is not available this spring.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles previewing spring practice for the Auburn Tigers. Our series will lead all the way up to the start of spring practice.

Up next: Defensive Tackle

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