2004 Auburn Football Preview: Cornerbacks

In the sixth part of a series previewing the 2004 Tigers, the cornerback position is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville says he believes the Tigers will feature one of the top cornerbacks in the country this season with Carlos Rogers returning for his senior season.

If he stays healthy, Rogers is a lock to be a four-year starter for Auburn. Who will be the starter on the opposite side is still far from settled. Finding a strong number one guy at that position is one of the keys to a successful 2004 season, Tuberville says.

Carlos Rogers works out in a spring training drill earlier this year.

Newcomer David Irons ended spring training number one on the depth chart, but Montae Pitts, who started in the bowl victory over Wisconsin, is still in the mix, too.

Gene Chizik, Auburn's defensive coordinator, who will be coaching the position in addition to his duties at safety with Phillip Lolley moving off the field, is looking for someone to step up and win the spot opposite Rogers with a strong performance in preseason practice.

"I feel really good about Carlos and believe he is going to have a big senior year," Chizik says. "We don't have anybody else like Carlos who has proven they are a starter. We are looking for that to happen in two-a-days."

Rogers set a goal of adding muscle over the offseason and he has done that. "Carlos is up to 200 pounds now and he looks better than ever," Tuberville says. "He has had a hard time gaining weight, but you can definitely see the difference. If he can avoid some of the injury problems he has had in the past, he can be a big asset to this team."

Rogers, who weighed in the low 190s during spring drills, goes into his final fall as a preseason All-SEC selection and is already being closely scrutinized by NFL scouts. Tuberville says that Rogers would have been drafted if he had decided to go out after his junior season, but notes that with a strong 2004 performance the senior can really move up the draft board. "I think Carlos made a very wise decision to come back for his senior year," the head coach says. "It looks like he has done everything he needs to do to get ready to play."

For Irons, the son of a former NFL player, the big issue has been getting a chance to get on the field for the Tigers. The 6-1, 183-pounder from Dacula, Ga., originally signed with the Tigers, however, he didn't qualify academically and moved to Butler County, Kan., Community College. He was hoping to get to Auburn in time for the 2003 season, but came up just short of that goal and played at Butler again last season as a sophomore.

Irons was primarily a running back in high school so he has been in a major learning mode as a junior college player. It didn't take too long for the lessons to take as he made All-Jayhawk Conference and helped his team to the NJCAA national title.

David Irons will try to hold on to his number one spot during two-a-days.

Pitts is another player who has been learning how to play cornerback. He was primarily a quarterback at Loachapoka High and he spent most of his first season at Auburn playing wide receiver while being redshirted. Last year he played in 13 games and showed flashes of strong play. Chizik says he is looking for more consistency from the redshirt sophomore this year. At 6-3, 203 pounds, Pitts has excellent size at the position to go along with plenty of quickness and all-around athletic ability.

With former walk-on Lamel Ages graduating this summer and transferring to a Division I-AA Tennessee State in hopes of winning a starting job, the Tigers don't have any experienced depth at cornerback with Kevin Hobbs moving to free safety.

Courtney Denson, a 5-11, 198 redshirt freshman, has been showing signs of progress in converting from a high school quarterback to a college corner. Chizik says he wants to see that trend continue in two-a-days. Auburn's defensive coordinator notes that another redshirt freshman cornerback, Patrick Lee, has the athletic ability to get into the playing rotation, but hasn't made the push to do that yet.

Depth is expected to come from walk-on Gerald Williams, a 5-9, 192 junior, and walk-on Zach Gilbert, a 5-10, 189 redshirt freshman walk-on who has had some good days in practice.

Montae Pitts is beginning his second full season as a cornerback.

More depth is expected from incoming signee Tristan Davis from Tri-Cities High in East Point, Ga. Anthony Campbell, a running back/defensive back from Hialeah, Fla., High, could get a look at the position.

A wildcard in the equation is 6-3, 195 Lorenzo Ferguson, an athletic defensive back from Southridge High in Miami will start practice with the Tigers this week. He had previously committed to LSU, but because he was injured late in his senior season the original plan was for him to sit out of school this fall and join the LSU team in January. However, he made a quicker recovery than predicted from a broken bone in his leg and decided to play for the Tigers, who are expected to put him on scholarship.

A 6-3, 195-pounder with 4.5 speed and a ferocious attitude on the field, Ferguson earned All-Dade County honors as a senior and was third-team All-State as named by the Florida Sports Writers Association. Despite those accolades Ferguson didn't get as much recruiting attention as would be expected because of an injury suffered late in his senior year.

Although the group isn't as good or as experienced as Chizik would like, he sees hope for the cornerbacks to blossom this fall. "We have got some young players who have got some talent," he says. "It is now time for them to step up and make plays in practice and be ready to do the same thing in games when it really counts."

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