McNeill Happy to Get Back Into the SEC Race

Big Marcus McNeill discusses this Saturday's game vs. the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Auburn, Ala.--Senior offensive tackle Marcus McNeill says he is eager to get back into the conference football race against an opponent he has never played before.

On Saturday at 6 p.m., Auburn will take on visiting South Carolina as the Tigers look to improve their record to 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference.

"It is exciting to play an SEC team again because it is hard to get motivated for some of the little teams like the Ball States and Western Kentuckys even though they have some great athletes," McNeill says of Auburn's previous two opponents. "You really enjoy playing in the SEC because it is such a competitive conference."

McNeill and the rest of the Auburn offensive linemen have been working overtime trying to become a steady force for the Tigers and he says he thinks the extra work has helped. "We have definitely made some progress," the 2004 All-SEC tackle says.

"We are really paying attention to the fundamentals and realize they are going to play a major role in what happens in a game," he adds. "A wrong step can cost us a game. We have seen that happen before and we don't want to have that situation when we play a game."

Auburn hasn't played South Carolina in football since the 1997 season so McNeill says he is looking forward to taking on the Gamecocks. "We just plan on going out there and having fun," he says. "You always like playing teams you haven't played before. You really don't know what to expect. When you go out there you still have butterflies because you don't know what kind of athletes they have over there, but the butterflies leave after the first play and you get into it."

Marcus McNeill

Looking at the 2-2 Gamecocks, who were easy winners vs. Troy last week but are 0-2 in the SEC, McNeill says he has been watching video of their defense. "We saw two different South Carolina defenses," he says. "At the beginning of the year, they really weren't stopping the run too well so they went to a better run-stop defense against Troy State. It seemed to work a lot better so we are looking for more of that defense to counteract our running attack."

McNeill says he believes the offense as a whole is improving and notes that he was pleased that the Tigers didn't struggle last week after starting QB Brandon Cox sat out the game after becoming ill prior to kickoff. "Brandon Cox came down with something last week and Blake Field stepped in and played a wonderful game in his first start in college," McNeill says. "That is big for someone as young as him to step in the quarterback role and have such a good game."

"Overall on offense, I think we are playing at a caliber we need to play in the SEC, but we have got to get better at the same time," McNeill adds.

Saturday's game vs. South Carolina will be televised nationally on ESPN2. The 6-9, 337-pound senior says he likes to perform on national television.

"Whenever you get a chance to play on the big stage you always want to do well," McNeill notes. "You really get up for it and SEC games are always great."

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