Aggressive Defensive Style Excites Talented End

This young defensive end has already established himself as one of the SEC's top pass rushers.

Auburn, Ala.–-There's not much Quentin Groves could have done as a pass rusher to make his first spring scrimmage performance any better. Playing with the second team defense, he had four sack and showed that his freshman year was no fluke.

A part-time performer last fall for the Tigers, Groves tied with Stanley McClover for the team lead in sacks with seven and a half. He also set a team record with four sacks in one game against Kentucky in an easy Auburn victory. As one of the most experienced ends on this year's squad Groves is being counted on as one of the leaders on defense and he showed that on Saturday.

Working against King Dunlap for the most part, Groves was in the backfield on seemingly every play. That proved to be good and bad for the defense as he disrupted the passing game, but gave up several plays in the running game. He says that his performance wasn't what he would have liked it have been, but it wasn't bad for a first effort.

Quentin Groves excelled in his first season of playing time last fall.

"I did okay," Groves says. "I have to get better at the run technique stuff. The passing part is pretty easy, just get up field and use your hands. The run part I have to work on a whole lot more. I gave up two big runs when the running back cut it back on a zone play. I know I'm going to get yelled at for that."

Some of Groves' problems could be blamed on the blocking of Dunlap in front of him. At almost six feet 10 inches tall with a wingspan longer than anyone on either Auburn's football or basketball teams, Dunlap is coming into his own as a blocker and Groves says working against him is making him better every day in practice.

"I was really surprised with King Dunlap," Groves says. "He worked me pretty good. I tried to bull him because he's so light and I tried to speed him a little bit, but his arms are so long. There were things that I saw as the day progressed when I realized I had to get his arms down. King really stepped up and impressed me. I just thank him."

With 2004 senior starters Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld gone most people assumed that Groves and McClover would be on opposite ends of the defense, but that's not the way things have lined up this spring. Both are playing on the weak side of the defense with Marquies Gunn and Christopher Browder on the strong side. Gunn says the changes in how they're playing defense this year under David Gibbs as compared to Gene Chizik make playing defensive end even more fun for the players.

"The thing that is different is that he likes to drop his strongside ends more instead of the tackles," Groves notes. "The ends are supposed to be more athletic than tackles, so he drops the ends more than we did with Coach Chizik.

"He plays a lot, lot, lot more man. We get to make more plays now as well because we get a chance to bat balls down and even make interceptions. It used to be just the weakside end dropping, but now everyone is getting involved and everybody is making plays. It makes us a better defense."

After six practices in the spring, as expected, the defense has generally outplayed the offense. While that is good news for the defense there were some busts during Saturday's major scrimmage. Groves says that having a chance to work out the kinks and watch them on film helps to fix the problems and make the unit better as a whole before the next scrimmage this Saturday.

"We did real good, much better than most people thought we were going to do," Groves says. "Being as though we were in a new system they thought we would have a lot of flaws and blow some coverages. We blew some coverages, but it was the first day with a new coordinator in a scrimmage. We can only get better.

"It helped us a whole lot because you can go in and see things you did wrong and things you did right and what you need to work on," Groves adds. "We're going to study the film and see what we have to do to get better. Knowing that the new defense works is a plus."

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