Price Says Ends Making Strides

Defensive ends coach Terry Price talks about the development of the players at his position through two games.

Auburn, Ala.–-Coming into the 2005 season one concern on the defensive side of the ball was how Auburn's new starting defensive ends would handle being every down players instead of third down specialists. Through two games the report card is still incomplete, but position coach Terry Price said that he thought his players improved in game two against Mississippi State over the weekend.

"We played a little better last week, but it was still little small mistakes that eat at you and can get you beat," Price said. "We just have to improve on some small things. We've still got to get a lot better.

"I think it did by following our pre-snap reads, using our eyes, and playing smart football," he added. "We still made enough mistakes that we weren't perfect, but we got a little better in certain areas."

Quentin Groves played solid last week on the strong side of the formation for the Tigers.

Because of an ankle injury to weakside starter Stanley McClover, the defense was shuffled around some to allow strongside back-up Quentin Groves to move over in his place to face the Bulldogs. Junior Marquies Gunn remained the starter on the other side, a player that earned praise for his solid play once again from Price.

"As a six-technique in this defense you have to have an anchor," Price said. "He's been an anchor for us all year long. If he keeps working hard he'll continue to improve every single week. In our defense the six-technique is critical, a tough guy at that strongside end spot. He's done well so far being a physical player."

While McClover, Groves and to an extent Christopher Browder are flashier and more explosive players, Gunn is the one that keeps the defensive line playing at peak performance with his strength on the strong side. Through two games he has eight tackles with two coming for a loss. He has also added one sack. Price said that despite his 250-pound frame, the Alexander City native plays big for the Tigers.

"To play that spot you have to be a physical football player," Price said. "You've got to be physical to take on double teams and tight ends. The weakside guy can be a little less physical and a little more athletic, but that strongside end has to be a physical guy. That's what he is. He's a tough, physical guy. That's why he plays well at the position."

Marquies Gunn has been the best of the defensive ends for the Tigers this fall.

Someone that is working to fill that role in the future is redshirt freshman Octavious Balkcom. After coming to Auburn as a linebacker, Balkcom was moved to defensive end last season and has been progressing ever since. Standing 6-4 and weighing in at 245 pounds, Balkcom has the frame to be the physical presence down the road that Price is looking for. He said that he was glad he was able to get Balkcom some snaps against Mississippi State to get him ready for what's ahead.

"We're going to need him down the stretch," Price said. "It was really good to get him some action. He did a few good things, but obviously a lot of bad things like a first-time player is going to play at times. We're going to need all of our bodies down the stretch when we get in this tough SEC schedule. It was good to get him some work early."

The Tigers step out of the conference this Saturday when they take on the Ball State Cardinals at 1:30 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It will be available on a Pay-Per-View basis only with Andy Burcham and Cole Cubelic handling the play-by-play and color duties.

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