Nashville Tigers: Jake Slaughter

<b>Editor's Note: This is the first of a four-part series of articles on Auburn's four redshirt football freshmen from Nashville, Tenn.</b>

Auburn, Ala.--It has been an eventful first year in college for Auburn's Jake Slaughter even though the former Brentwood Academy star has yet to play a single snap in a real football game for the Tigers.

The two-way prep star arrived last summer on the Auburn campus and was one of the more impressive players in the 2001 signee class. However, the decision was made to redshirt Slaughter and get him ready to play linebacker in 2002. He performed well in practice last fall and got off to a strong start in spring training.

However, with the Tigers loaded with talent at linebacker and short on numbers at defensive end after Jay Ratliff went down with an injury on the first day of full contact drills, the coaching staff made the decision to move Slaughter to end so there would be a strong and physical player at the position to give the offense a real test in spring drills. Although he had never played defensive end before and he admits he wasn't real thrilled with the idea, Slaughter gave it a good shot and won praise from the coaching staff for his performances through A-Day.

However, those same coaches were not done with the former Brentwood Academy star. After spring drills ended he found out he was moving again, but this time to a more familiar position.

"The coaches have moved me to fullback and it is a position I should be more familiar with than defensive end since I played it in high school," Slaughter says. "I am pretty excited about it."

Jake Slaughter is one of the all-around strongest players on the team.

Slaughter has played fullback going back to middle school, but says he was surprised when he was told that he was moving to offense even though running backs coach Eddie Gran had hinted that it was something under consideration. "It was a little weird when they told me because I have been moving around so much."

Despite being undersized at defensive end at 6-2, 225 pounds, Slaughter battled hard at the position and won praise for his efforts from position coach Terry Price. "I feel like I got a little better at end as time went on, but it was kind of hard to adjust with the weight disadvantage I had. I improved my technique and Coach Price helped me out a lot with my skills."

When the Tigers put on the pads for two-a-days, Slaughter will be given the task of clearing out defensive ends on toss sweeps for Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, neutralizing mean middle linebackers and stopping ends from sacking whoever is the starting quarterback. Head coach Tommy Tuberville says that the staff has decided that Slaughter is the right man for the job.

"Jake has played fullback in high school and we are going to give him a chance to come over and learn the fullback system," Tuberville says. "All of the guys that we are playing at fullback, other than Victor Horn, have had injuries and we want to make sure we have enough depth at that position to make it through a long year."

Junior Brandon Johnson will go into two-a-days as the No. 1 fullback despite missing spring drills while recovering from offseason surgery to repair a shoulder problem. Depth will come from Horn, who can also play tailback, and seldom-used senior Michael Owens. While Johnson is a proven blocker even though he spent much of his sophomore season at linebacker, Horn and Owens need improvement in that area, opening the door for immediate playing time for Slaughter.

"The coaches told me that they mostly want a strong blocker in there at fullback," Slaughter says. "They have also said that they plan to get the ball to us a couple times and I am excited about that. Coach Gran and I have been going over some plays so I am learning it bit by bit."

A bonus for Slaughter is that he has good hands as a receiver, a skill he will need at fullback. He has been working out with the quarterbacks this summer catching balls to be ready for two-a-days. He has also been able to add some size in the offseason training program and has put on nearly 10 pounds.

A two-time All-State performer in high school, he rushed for 810 yards and 10 touchdowns at fullback his senior season with 145 tackles and six sacks at linebacker. He forced seven fumbles, had six QB sacks, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass as he was named the Division II Defensive Player of the Year in Tennessee.

"I would say playing at Brentwood Academy really helped me," says Slaughter. "We have a real strong program and we played real strong competition the four years I was there and it helped me prepare for college ball."

Brentwood has consistently beaten top high school teams from other states and has a long history of sending its best players on to the college ranks. Slaughter's teammate Taylor Bourgeois, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle for the Tigers, is one of those college players. Auburn's two other redshirt freshmen from Nashville, offensive lineman Steven Ross and tight end Cooper Wallace, played their high school ball at Christ Presbyterian Academy. CPA played in a smaller school division so their paths did not cross on the gridiron in high school except for a brief scrimmage early in their high school years.

"Me and Taylor were best buddies in high school and they (Wallace and Ross) were pretty good friends," Slaughter says. "We would always see each other around town when we were in high school, but we never really knew each other. We came together at the all-star game and bonded and all four of us became friends."

Jake Slaughter (44) battles against offensive tackle Rich Trucks in a spring scrimmage.

All four of the future Tigers played impressively in leading the Tennessee All-Stars to a victory over a team from Kentucky. That was the last time any of the quartet played in a game that was not an intra-squad contest. All four have legitimate chances to see action when the Tigers open the 2002 season at Southern Cal. In addition to his personal excitement about his opportunity to play vs. the Trojans, Slaughter says the team is looking forward to the nationally televised Monday night opener and the season. "We are real excited. With the new coordinators and the new defense and offense, it should be interesting to get it all put together."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Slaughter is spending time in the film room this summer studying fullback responsibilities in addition to working in the weight room and catching passes. He says some nights he even "dreams about football" so there is no doubt he is eager for the upcoming season to arrive...Slaughter is also trying to gain some more weight. He currently is up to 233 pounds and hopes to add more so he doesn't come in to the season too light after the inevitable weight loss that players have during the heat of August two-a-day practices...The fullback comes from an athletic family. His uncle, Mickey Slaughter, was a quarterback for Louisiana Tech and the NFL's Denver Broncos. His cousin, Bobby Slaughter, played wide receiver for the San Francisco ‘49ers...Slaughter scored Brentwood's only touchdown in an 8-7 loss to Montgomery Bell Academy in the state championship game his senior season. After the season, Brentwood head coach Tom Moore said, "In my opinion, he is the best linebacker that I have coached or one of my teams has played against in the past 10 years. He just killed people all season. Nobody we played could block him. It didn't matter if they used one blocker, two blockers or five blockers to try to stop him. He just ran right through them and made the play. He also did a good job for us on offense. He played fullback and even some tailback....By the end of the season, he was our go-to guy on key plays as a running back."

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