Auburn, Ala.--The news was as much of a shock to Sen'Derrick Marks as it was to many Auburn fans. When Auburn's depth chart for the opener against Washington State was released on Tuesday Marks was atop the list at defensive tackle ahead of Pat Sims. While both have worked with the first team all preseason in the end Marks was the one that got the first nod.
"It's big for me, a freshman moving up to starter," Marks says. "I feel like I have high expectations coming into the first game. I just have to live up to what they think I'm going to do. That's the only thing on my mind.
"I didn't know that I moved up," Marks says. "He (Dunn) just put me in one day. He was like ‘get in'. I just got in and went through it. Then I saw my name was first on the depth chart. It was a big shock but I guess they think I can do it. I'm going to be ready for it."
Marks is a much more physical player than he was last season when he weighed just over 270 pounds to start the season.
Up to 291 pounds at the moment and as heavy as 296 at times during fall practices, Marks has shown the ability to be very good in the middle and uses his long arms to be a very good pass rusher from the tackle spot. He says he has improved in all areas of his game because of the competition with Sims that has been going on since the final whistle blew last season.
"It has helped a lot," Marks says. "Pat has been here more years than I have. He's bigger and stronger than I am. I had to play real good to beat him out. There has been competition since Wayne (Dickens) left. We both knew it was going to be either me or him starting. We've been going at it since then."
Different players, Marks relies on his athleticism while Sims is pure power coming off the ball. That's not to say that Sims can't move though as Marks says he found out up close and personal this summer during a pick-up game.
"Pat is kind of quick," Marks says. "I didn't know he was real quick until he called me in the off-season and challenged me to a basketball game. He went around me one time and that's when I first knew how quick he was. Pat is pretty quick to be as big as he is."
Tuesday position Coach Don Dunn said that both Marks and Sims will play a great deal at tackle along with Josh Thompson and Tez Doolittle at nose guard. That depth will be imperative facing an explosive offense such as Washington State and in the first game under new coordinator Will Muschamp. With Muschamp's up-tempo NFL style defense, Marks says that it has been a chore to get ready for the Cougars but everything looks good for the defense.
"We didn't have a long as we had last year to get ready for the game," Marks says. "With a new coach coming in he put in a lot more stuff. We've got a lot more plays than we usually have and a lot more schemes than we usually have. I like the schemes that he brought in. We didn't have that much time to learn but the extra walk-throughs and extra meetings, we caught on kind of quick to the new stuff he brought in. I think it's going to be a big plus this season."
A player known more for his basketball exploits than his football prowess at Vigor High in Mobile, Marks will join fellow redshirt freshman Aairon Savage in the starting lineup for the defense. He says that he's looking forward to getting on the field because until then the nerves will be tough to handle.
"I'm excited but I'll probably be a little nervous the first play," Marks says. "I have to get into the rhythm of how the game is really going to go. I'm excited but I'll have to keep my composure. I know that."