Where's The Beef?

A year older and wiser, this Tiger defensive end is trying to get big enough to handle the punishment he will receive as a first-year player in the SEC.

Auburn, Ala.--While the quarterback and wide receiver positions get a bulk of the talk during the summer months heading into two-a-day practices this fall, perhaps the biggest question mark for the 2002 Auburn Tigers is at defensive end. With three seniors gone from last year and just one proven veteran on the roster, Coach Terry Price will earn his money this season if he can get the group of youngsters to rally around "old man" Reggie Torbor.

One player that is scheduled to be counted on heavily this fall and in the years to come is redshirt freshman Steven Bouldin. At 6-5, 230 pounds, he is closer physically to being in the range for playing time this fall, but first he must recover completely from an off-the-field accident suffered near his hometown of Crossville. While riding a four-wheeler, Bouldin had an accident that broke a bone in his leg. Forced into a cast, the former high school quarterback and star basketball player had a hard time watching his teammates toil in the weight room without him.

"That's been the hardest thing about it, watching all the guys out there doing conditioning," Bouldin tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I worked this whole spring and summer conditioning and now I've fallen back. I'm just going to have to try harder to gain all my conditioning and strength back.

"I lack about two more weeks before I can get back out there. I have to get cleared first. I'm going to Birmingham Thursday and they are going to X-ray my leg again and see how well it has done. I don't know if I'm really ready to get back into it, but I'll know after Thursday...it's feeling great. I got off my crutches about a week ago. It's feeling strong. I've been doing rehab work twice a day and listening to the trainers. I'm hopeful that I'll be back way before two-a-days so I can be in shape and be prepared."

Steven Bouldin will be a redshirt freshman this fall.

Entering Auburn last season at just over 210 pounds, Bouldin had to make the tough move from playing quarterback in high school to being a down linemen in the SEC. Using the fall to learn the proper techniques required to play defensive end, he fought against Kendall Simmons and other upperclassmen for much of the year as a member of the scout team. He says that experience prepared him well for the spring and gave him the confidence to make the most of his chance to move into the playing rotation this fall.

"After the spring I had I've been pretty excited," he notes. "Maybe I'll get into the rotation and get some playing time. We've got a lot of incoming freshmen, a few at defensive end, that we'll be competing for the same job. It's going to be very challenging. I'm going to give it all I've got and hopefully my experience will be of use to me."

As for now all Bouldin can do is sit and wait until he fully heals before getting back into the swing of things with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall. Trying his best to gain enough weight to hold his own against the mammoth offensive tackles in the SEC, Bouldin says that he's been able to put on a few pounds since being sidelined by the injury. He says that he is hopeful he can gain a few more before two-a-days begin in early August.

"I'm up to 230 now," he smiles. "Being off my feet has helped me put on some weight, but I don't know if I'll be able to hold it on when I get back running. That's my goal. Hopefully, by the first game I'm weighing 245--that's what I'm shooting for. You always lose weight during two-a-days though because it's so hot and your food consumption is a lot lower than normal. Hopefully, I can maintain it. I'm just going to try to gain as much weight as I can."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Bouldin was one of the best athletes in Alabama as a senior at Crossville High School. An All-state performer in both football and basketball, he passed for 1,003 yards and ran for another 975 yards and also averaged 26 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.3 blocks on the hardwood. His school's all-time leader in dunks and possessing a 36-inch vertical leap, Bouldin has the speed and agility to become an outstanding pass rusher in the future for the Tigers.

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