Tiger Defender Ready To Play Some "Q" Ball

Back at defensive end, redshirt freshman Quentin Groves is expected to contribute as a key reserve on the Auburn defense.

Auburn, Ala.--With opening day of the 2004 season coming on Saturday, Quentin Groves is ready for some football.

That attitude has been reflected in his recent performances in practices that have moved him up to number two on the defensive end depth behind sophomore Stanley McClover.

"Quentin is improving and is a player who really has a chance to help us this season," says Auburn's head coach, Tommy Tuberville. "It looks like the move back to defensive end is going to be a good one for him."

Groves watched Auburn football games from the sidelines last fall as he spent the season as a redshirt. He then made a position change from defensive end to middle linebacker in spring training. He didn't threaten to win the starting job at his new position, where junior Travis Williams is the current number one guy, but he get better as a football player.

When Groves hit the 250-pound mark on the scales earlier this year, his coaches decided he was big enough to move back to defensive end, the position he played so well in high school as an All-State player at Weston High in Greenville, Miss.

Moving back to end was no problem, Groves notes. "It feels like coming back home--going back to Mississippi," he says. "I really just wanted to get back on the field. When the coaches came to me and said, ‘Q, I think you might be better here,' I just thanked God that I had a chance to grow, learn and mature at another position before I came back to defensive end because it helped me with my quickness."

Groves is already one of the quickest players on the team. He has run a hand-timed 40-yard dash under 4.5 seconds this year, something normally reserved for wide receivers, running backs and defensive backs.

"I am still working on my speed--my takeoff to be exact," Groves says. "At times I feel like I am fraction too late and I can get blocked even though I beat them off the ball."

Karibi Dede (21) and Groves are shown during a practice at the football complex.

In addition to getting quicker and bigger, Groves says he has used the redshirt season to grow stronger. "When I came in I was maxing 315 (bench press)," he notes. "Easily, I could do 360 to 370 now."

Groves says he is more ready to take on the challenge of major college football this year than he was last season. "In the SEC, I couldn't be 220 or 225 pounds playing defensive end like I was last year so the extra size will help. As far as the weight goes, I haven't been putting on fat. Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) and his staff have put muscle on me. I weigh 250 now."

Tuberville says he likes the redshirt freshman's potential at end. "He is going to be a heck of a player inside," the coach states. "He is going to get bigger, too. With Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld leaving after this year, we are going to have to find somebody to play at the tight end side."

Groves says he is still learning the finer points of defensive ned play. "I am still trying to get to know the position really, really well like I want to know it," he says. "Coach (Terry) Price has been a great teacher. Stanley and Bret, Doug, Marquis (Marquis Gunn) and all of the rest of the fellows have really helped me along."

Groves says he is excited about the season and notes that he believes the Tigers will bounce back from a disappointing 8-5 record last season and contend in the SEC race.

"We have great leaders," he says. "Our coaches do a good job of teaching us to play the game and I think we are going to have a good season. We are ready to take on all of the doubters. We thank them for doubting us and we plan to prove them all wrong."

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