Hart And Soul Game For Tiger Lineman

South Carolina native Leon Hart talks about Saturday night's game against the Gamecocks.

Auburn, Ala.–-He's not a starter and he's not even expected to play a significant role for the Auburn Tigers, but that doesn't make this week any less important for sophomore offensive lineman Leon Hart.

A native of Columbia, S.C., Hart almost chose the Gamecocks before coming to Auburn, making this game very big in his eyes.

"I'm going to be loving this week," Hart says. "Basically when I was coming out of high school a lot of folks thought I was going to South Carolina and they were real upset when I decided to go to Auburn. Plus, I know a lot of the players on the team. It's not going to be hard to get motivated to play South Carolina this week."

Hart is capable of playing all five positions for the Tigers on the offensive line.

One of the nation's most highly-recruited offensive linemen coming out of Spring Valley High, the same school that produced Auburn senior linebacker Travis Williams, Hart had his choice of just about any college in the country. After flirting with Ohio State throughout the process, the choice came down to Auburn and South Carolina and Hart says he just felt more at home with the Tigers.

"They recruited me pretty hard and they were in my final three," Hart says of the Gamecocks. "Basically it was a comfortable feeling. I just liked the whole atmosphere at Auburn as far as the people. Auburn wasn't too big and it wasn't too small. That's what sold me on Auburn.

"It wasn't hard for me to tell them," Hart adds. "Of course there were a lot of people shocked about my decision, but they understood it was left up to me on where I would go. It wasn't too hectic when I decided to go to Auburn."

Hart isn't the only player to have some extra motivation to play well and defeat the Gamecocks this weekend. Both Williams and running back Kenny Irons have had this game on their minds for quite a while as well. For Irons the game is about proving that he deserved a chance after starting his career with South Carolina before transferring to Auburn after his sophomore season.

"We were already talking about it," Hart says. "This is our week. Me, Travis and Kenny, this is our week to shine. I'm going to be motivated all week. I don't get real hyped up until game time though. You have to make sure you don't get so hyped up that you're messing up out there on the field, but it's okay to get motivated early to help you get through the week and to practice harder."

There's no question that Williams has the most motivation of the group. While both Hart and Irons were offered by the Gamecocks, the same isn't true of Auburn's leader on defense. Thought to be too small to play in the SEC by his hometown college, Williams went out as a senior and set records for tackles during the regular season and then followed that up with a great all-star game performance. That finally caught the attention of the Gamecock coaching staff, but Hart says he doesn't think that's going to matter for the senior linebacker this Saturday night.

"This is really going to have him jacked up and ready to play," Hart says. "I remember him telling me South Carolina didn't offer him, but after he played in an all-star game they wanted to offer him. He's really going to be excited to play in this game. Plus, just like me, he knows a lot of players that play for South Carolina."

If Hart and the Tigers hope to come away with a win the running game will have to continue to be a big part of the offense with quarterback Brandon Cox coming back after sitting out last week's game with a virus. Along with fellow reserves Jonathan Palmer and King Dunlap, Hart has been a big part of the success for Auburn's renewed running game because of their play. He says that if they get the chance this weekend he feels like they can get the job done.

"That's really helping me, J.P. and King a lot," Hart says. "Just having the chance to get some playing time and some game experience. You never know what can happen with the starting five so it's good we're getting a lot of reps now so when those big games come, if something does happen, we'll be ready to go out there."


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