Dansby A Difference-Maker For Tigers

Karlos Dansby is expected to be a standout player for the 2002 Auburn defense.

Auburn, Ala.--While many players had disappointing performances in 2001 as the Auburn Tigers stumbled home to a 7-5 record after beginning the season 6-1, that's not the case for standout defender Karlos Dansby.

The glue who held the Auburn defense together for much of last season as players like DeMarco McNeil, Mark Brown and Spencer Johnson were hobbled by injuries, Dansby says that the team is looking forward to getting back on the football field to find the answers to what went wrong last season.

Dansby makes a hit against Louisiana Tech last season.

"Everybody is excited," Dansby says. "We've got new coordinators and everybody is ready to get out there and show what they are worth."

One answer could come in the form of a new defensive strategy. Out is John Lovett and in is Gene Chizik as Auburn's defensive coordinator. Gone are the modified 4-3/4-4 alignments that Auburn has used since Tommy Tuberville's arrival on the Plains. It has been replaced by a more traditional 4-3 look, something that should play right into the hands of Auburn's talent.

Much of the practice time in Auburn's first two workouts on Friday and Sunday was devoted to teaching Dansby and his teammates the basics of Chizik's defensive system.

Dansby works on a special teams assignment last fall.

"We feel like by looking at what everybody is doing in the conference now and the people we play well against, going back to a 4-3 look is going to enable us to get our best people on the field," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville says. "We'll get more linebackers on the field and more speed on the field against the people that we're going to need to play well against, which is all of them. The ones that we're going to have to beat to get to the championship game, this is going to enable us to play better."

Dansby comes off the field during Auburn's stirring upset of top-ranked Florida.

Particularly suited for this defense is Dansby. At 6-4, 218 pounds with the agility to play defensive back and a headhunter's mentality, the junior will line up at strong side linebacker for the Tigers after playing more of a safety position last season. He still managed to lead the team in interceptions with five and finished third on the team in tackles with 59. Add in the eight tackles for losses and you have the type of player who is a difference-maker on the field.

Moving him to linebacker in this defense will allow him to become more aggressive at the line of scrimmage and gives him more of a chance to use his speed off the corner to put pressure on opposing passers. However, he will still have pass coverage responsibilities.

"I don't think it's going to be a big difference," Dansby notes of his position change. "I kind of floated back and forth last year so I can't really say which role I like best. It's going to be all mental for me on how I come out and play. But, I think I'll be okay.

Showing his agility, Dansby gets low on a defensive back drill during practices for the Peach Bowl last year.

"I'm going to have an opportunity to make even more plays, I think," Dansby says. "That's the way I have seen it on film. The guy from UCF, he had a lot of opportunities to make plays and that's what I really want to do. I think I'll fit in good at that position. I'll be real close to the line of scrimmage so I'll be involved a lot and I'll be able to do a lot more things."

Now the major task for Dansby and the defense is learning the system in the 15 days allotted for spring workouts. Since January the team has been under the direction of strength and conditioning coordinator Kevin Yoxall preparing for spring drills and Dansby says he thinks the team is ready to have a good spring practice.

"The offseason is always tough," he notes. "That's what it takes to become a great athlete--you have to have a great offseason. I think we had that."

Dansby and the Tigers will be involved in spring training through the A-Day Game, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 6th at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Karlos Dansby (11) and Dontarrious Thomas await their turn for a drill at Sunday's practice.

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