"(Defensive ends) Coach (Terry) Price really emphasized to us that all of the big physical guys such as Bret Eddins and Doug Langenfeld, who played first and second down for us, they're gone now," Groves notes. "So, we're going to have to step up and be run stoppers. We need to get out of pass-rushing mode so much and get into run-stopping."
As a redshirt freshman in 2004 Groves was used mostly as a pass rushing end and tied for the team lead with fellow end Stanley McClover with 7 1/2 sacks. This year the pass-rushing duo must concentrate more on stopping the run on first and second down before they can pin their ears back on third down.
"It's been a challenge," Groves says. "Coach Tubs (Tommy Tuberville) said at the start of spring practice that we can't rely on Doug and Bret because they're gone. We've taken it as far as gaining weight, watching film, hitting the sled, working with Coach Yox during the off season and things like that--harder than we've ever done it because we know we have to be run stoppers as well as pass rushers. It's just the mentality we took into the summer.
"Everybody in the country knows we can pass rush," he adds. "We can line up on third down against any tackle and do what we do. They don't know that we can line up on first and second down and pound, pound, pound. That's what we need to get better at."
Groves, one of the better athletes on the team, says he began fall practice at 255 pounds, about 10 pounds heavier than he was coming out of spring drills.
The redshirt sophomore says that he doesn't have many personal goals for 2005 except for helping his team win, but Groves realizes that there will still be pressure on him to put up big numbers.
"That's what really makes a defensive end--sacks and tackles for a loss," he says. "You really start thinking about it like, ‘Okay, I had 7 1/2 last year. I have to have at least 10 this year or they're going to call it a sophomore slump.' It's just something that you can't get caught up in."
Groves spent his first season in Auburn on the scout team as a linebacker, which is something that should help him under first-year Auburn defensive coordinator David Gibbs, who spent the last four years with the Denver Broncos. Gibbs brings with him more of a NFL-style defense which features more man press and zone blitzing packages than in previous years under former Auburn coordinator Gene Chizik.
Groves (54) is hoping that bigger is better this season.
"There's a lot more man-to-man defenses and the strongside end drops more," Groves says. "Last year the strongside end never dropped. Now he drops on a lot of the defenses. That'll help us in the future and see if we can work well in coverage.
"I'm always excited about dropping," he adds. "You get tired of just pounding the 300-pound guys. You get tired of it. When you get a chance to just free roam, you thank God."
Despite the personal and team success achieved in his first year on the collegiate playing field, Groves says that the team has to forget about last year and find its own identity as preseason practice continues.
"We can't embark on last season's 13-0," he says. "Last year is gone. We're 0-0 just like every other team in the country. We have to make our mark whether it be 12-1 or 11-2, whatever, or 13-0 again. We're the 2005 Auburn Tigers."