His position coach, Gene Chizik, who also serves as Auburn's defensive coordinator, agrees with the redshirt sophomore free safety. "We are expecting Will to be a much improved player this season," Chizik says. "He is bigger, stronger and more aggressive. He had a good spring training and he has continued to play well in the preseason. We are looking for that to carry over into the season."
Herring says he has concentrated on being more aggressive, particularly as a tackler. "I think that tackling was one of my weaknesses last year," he says. "I have really stayed on myself to improve on that. I feel like I have really made strides."
The six-foot-three safety, who added eight pounds of muscle in the past year to reach 220 pounds, will join his teammates for the season opener on Saturday vs. Louisiana-Monroe. The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the gate as the Tigers take on an opponent they manhandled 73-7 last year.
Herring worked out on campus over the summer in an effort to gain size, strength and quickness.
"Coach Chizik is always harping on being an active player," Herring says. "When he talks about activity at the safety position, he always brings up Travaris Robinson from a couple of years ago. The guy was always around the football whether it was pass, or a run, or a sack, or if it was for a one-yard gain or a 10-yard gain. That is one thing I have really tried to concentrate on--breaking on the ball and as soon as I read run and not holding back. Most of that is just effort. A lot of times you think might think you are giving a 100 percent effort, but when you go back and look on the film it might be a hot day and you're tired...if we can get 11 guys swarming to the ball like everybody is capable of, it is really going to help your defense."
Looking at the big picture for a rebuilding defensive unit, Herring says, "I think in the last week we have really picked it up. We had a few ups and downs in scrimmages.
"We have looked real great at times and then we will have one guy blow a responsibility every couple of plays. It reflects on the whole defense when in reality it is one guy trying to do too much. It is not by any means a lack of effort. Everybody is out there busting their butt on every play. We have really come a long way in the last week from what I can tell."
With Herring at free safety and senior Junior Rosegreen at strong safety, Auburn's last line of defense will be counted on heavily to be a strength of the 2004 team.