Reggie Torbor, who has graduated and is trying to earn a roster spot on the NFL's New York Jets team, will be missed for the 2004 Auburn football season. However, position coach Price has the potential to develop a solid unit with some depth. However, despite some talent at the position, most of Price's players lack significant game experience--especially SEC game experience.
Bret Eddins (94) is on the move during a practice this past spring.
The notable exception is returning starter Bret Eddins, who is up to 6-5, 270 pounds for his senior season. He will man the strongside defensive end position for a second year and take on the task of facing double-teams and stuffing the run.
"He is a guy that has the most experience coming back," Price notes about Eddins. "He is a dependable kid who plays hard and he has been a really good leader for us this summer. He needs to work on his pass rush technique and work at getting after the quarterback because he is a real solid physical defender against the run."
The Tigers' only other senior defensive end is behind Eddins on the strongside. Doug Langenfeld, who missed four games due to injury last season and was held out of spring practice as well while recovering, should be full speed by the time two-days arrive. The former juco transfer is a speedy player, who could be a dangerous pass rusher from the strongside if he can stay healthy in his second Auburn season.
Doug Langenfeld (98) played on an undefeated junior college team prior to arriving at Auburn for the 2003 season.
Redshirt freshman Doolittle is currently listed third string at strongside end and will provide the extra depth there along with 6-3, 250-pound Quentin Groves, who worked at middle linebacker in the spring. However, Groves was a defensive end in high school and should feel at home there.
On the weakside the Tigers will have to replace Torbor, who racked up 38 tackles and 9.5 sack. Sophomore Stanley McClover will look to fill those shoes this season as he is listed first team heading into fall practice.
Despite having what many people have called freakish athleticism and speed for a player his size, the 6-2, 260-pounder has still not played a down of college football and has a lot to prove on the field. "He's a very athletic young man who is still learning the game," Coach Price explains. "He has a lot of physical talent, but has zero experience. He has got to learn how to improve his technique, especially against the run, and he has just got to get experience."
On the weakside the Tigers will be backing up talented inexperience with more talented inexperience. Six-foot-four, 234-pound sophomore Marquies Gunn, who only played in seven games last season as a true freshman reserve and totaled seven tackles, will run behind McClover to start the season.
"He's a young man with good speed," Price says about Gunn. "He plays hard, but needs to gain size and strength and needs to improve his technique. He is also a guy who has very, very little experience, especially in SEC play."
Marquis Gunn (48) showed potential during his game stints last fall.
Another player who could work his way into the mix at the weakside is junior college signee Chris Browder. Browder is a fast and rangy defensive end at 6-4, 240-pounds, who could bring a lot to the table for the Tigers with his junior college experience.
"I watched him in high school and junior college and he was a tall, lean, athletic defensive end type that ran hard," Price notes. "He plays hard, but obviously we won't be able to evaluate him until we get some practice in two-a-days and see what he can do. He has a lot of physical ability, but needs to get bigger and stronger this summer and then come out there during two-a-days and compete against the other guys and see if he can earn a spot."
Price says that he believes the ends have potential, but notes that he is concerned that there are not more seasoned players among his group. "I feel overall that the athleticism has improved as far as the group is concerned," he explains. "It is probably a more athletic group than we have had in the past, but the biggest downfall is the experience.
"We have only got two guys, for the most part, that have played in the SEC, Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld, and we usually travel five or six defensive ends each game so three or four of the guys that we will play next year have never really played in SEC games."