Big Tiger Says Bama Game A Big Deal

Offensive tackle Marcus McNeill is having an impressive junior season.

Auburn, Ala.--Marcus McNeill has been winning battle after battle week after week when he has lined up against opposing defensive fronts this season. On Saturday, the big offensive tackle and his Tigers will try to make it 11 wins in 11 outings as they wrap up the regular season with a test vs. their archrival, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Bama, which is bowl eligible at 6-4, will try to defend its home turf at Bryant-Denny Stadium as the Tigers come to Tuscaloosa for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Even though the Tide is not a ranked team and has no victories over quality opponents this year, McNeill says that the Tigers are taking the Tide seriously.

"We know that Alabama is going to come in to the game and try to spoil our season because it is a big rivalry," the six-foot-eight, 332-pound junior says. "We can't really look past anything. We are really focused on this game."

Marcus McNeill has started all 10 games this season.

McNeill was a preseason second team All-SEC selection, but has a chance to be a first team pick when the all-star teams are announced because he has been consistently good, week after week. He graded a nearly perfect 99 in Auburn's victory over Georgia last week. Overall, the entire offensive front played well, line coach Hugh Nall noted.

"We were really pleased with our performance against Georgia and so was our coach, but our coach is really excited because he says we can get much better," McNeill says. "Whenever that is the case it makes you want to work that much harder because you always know you can do something extra."

A plus for the Tigers in the victory over Georgia was the solid play from senior center Jeremy Ingle, who returned to action despite not being 100 percent with a seriously sprained ankle. Ingle had missed the previous game. McNeill says that Ingle's return to lineup was good for the offensive line in particular and the entire offense as a whole.

"Jeremy plays a real big part in our success with his leadership role," McNeill says. "The center has to be the leader of the line. He is making all of the points and blocking calls directing the line. Whenever you have a leader doing it the way Jeremy does it, that makes everything work much smoother."

McNeill was tested last week by Georgia All-American defensive end David Pollack. McNeill kept the Bulldog under check along with help from junior tackle Troy Reddick, who plays on the other side.

"Pollack had a pretty good game, but he didn't make that many tackles and they didn't have any sacks as a team, but he was a real good challenge for me to block," McNeill says. "You have to have those type of challenges if you want to do what I want to do, which is to play in the NFL someday. With him being an NFL caliber defensive end prospect, he was a perfect person for me to face."

McNeill and his Tigers have already won a spot in the SEC Championship Game where they are expected to play Tennessee two weeks from Saturday. However, he says the team's focus is on this Saturday's contest. Getting ready for the title game will have to wait.

"The seniors have made it quite clear how important this game is to our team and I think we all understand it," McNeill says.


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