AU Spring Football Preview: Defensive Ends

Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a series of articles previewing Auburn's spring football practices.

Auburn, Ala.--Despite the loss of Stanley McClover, who left early for the NFL Draft, Terry Price will have an interesting blend of experienced and talented young defensive ends to coach this season.

Price will get his first on the field look at his 2006 ends on Feb. 28th as the Tigers begin spring drills that day.

"We are just trying to develop a good two-deep and a group of threes we can work with this spring," he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers.

"We are also trying to incorporate some of the new defensive schemes we will be adding this spring with Coach (Will) Muschamp as our new defensive coordinator. We will also be working on our nickel team with our four best rushers so we have a lot of things we need to work on this spring."

Senior Marquis Gunn is back after a strong junior performance and could be one of the best defensive ends in the SEC this season.

"Marquis is a guy who has done really well for us," Price says. "He made some all-conference teams and played really hard and really well for us throughout the year. He is the most consistent guy, by far, in our defensive end group.

"We have to find out where Chris Browder is going to play," Price says of the senior from Camden. "He has played both the strongside and the weakside. He and Marquis will also be given the opportunity to play inside as pass rushers when we are in a nickel defense.:

Redshirt sophomore Octavius Balkcom saw limited duty last, but has a chance to step up and receive significant playing time this fall.

Octavius Balkcom will be closely watched this spring.

"Octavius Balkcom is a guy who is a strongside defensive end," Price notes. "He was banged up most of the season last year. He has to really step up this spring to show us where he is at and how hard he is going to work to break into the two-deep rotation. He is a young man we have to take a look at and see where he is at after struggling last year with the injuries."

Quentin Groves had three starts last season as a redshirt sophomore. He is expected to take an even larger role in the 2006 defense.

"Quentin Groves is a young man who has played a lot of football for us," Price says. "He naturally steps into the weakside end spot. We want him to work hard and show he belongs there and understands the new schemes we are putting in.

Quentin Groves has seen significant playing time the past two seasons.

"On that side you have Antonio Coleman and Alonzo Horton, two young guys who can really play either side," Price says. "We have to find out where they fit into our defense.

"Obviously, both of those young men are players we are high on because they are tough, physical and very athletic. This spring we will find out a lot more about those two young players."

Alonzo Horton

Price notes that Horton and Coleman have both added muscle and weight. Horton is up to 250 pounds and Coleman is close to that.

"Both of them have done a really good job of putting weight on--good weight," Price says. "They are working out and running hard. The extra weight hasn't slowed them down at all. That is the kind of weight they need to succeed. Last year they were getting pushed around a bit when they were about 215 pounds. The weight will definitely help them become more physical players.

"We expect to see Marquis Gunn at about 265 this season," Price adds. "It is all good weight. He hasn't dropped a bit. Our guys need to continue to add weight and strength because we all know how physical this league is. We need to do a better job of stopping the run."

Price says he and the rest of the defensive staff have been busy preparing for spring drills with two new coaches on that side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Muschamp will coach the safeties and cornerbacks. James Willis is the new coach of the linebackers.

Antonio Coleman is expected to contribute this fall as a redshirt freshman.

"We are just getting everything put in scheme-wise now," Price notes. "Coach Muschamp brings a bunch of experience. He is extremely smart. He has got some really great defensive schemes, pressure packages and coverage schemes for the coaches and the players to learn. I am very excited about it. It is going to be a great scheme for our defense and I think it will fit our personnel very well."

The Tigers are scheduled to practice through March 22nd. The annual A-Day Game is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 18th.


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