Young Defensive End Expected to Contribute

Antonio Coleman is expected to see his first collegiate action on Saturday night for Tommy Tuberville's Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Last year as Auburn opened the football season, Antonio Coleman was a cat-quick young defensive end for the Tigers with a promising future, but was too small and too inexperienced to take the field for the Tigers.

That was the assessment of the coaching staff and one that the former Williamson High star says made sense. A year later as a redshirt freshman he is still young, quick and promising, but he is more ready physically to take on the challenge of playing SEC football.

"I have gained a lot of weigh since this time last year," the six-foot-two defensive end from Mobile says. "Last year I weighed 212 pounds. I got up to as high as 256 in preseason. I have lost a couple of pounds since practice started, but I have bulked up a lot this year.

"The weight has really helped me playing against the run and I have still got my quickness to rush the passer," he notes. "I haven't lost anything with my speed."

Coleman's speed and aggressiveness are two attributes that have him in line for playing time on Saturday night. He should be able to help the Auburn defense in a reserve role behind junior Quentin Groves.

"He has really done well," defensive ends coach Terry Price says. "He has improved in a lot of areas. We are putting a lot on him on what he has to learn at his position, but he has really stepped and played hard and tried to learn how we are teaching the defense.

"He will be the first guy off the bench behind Quentin Groves and it will be his first time in the fire out there on game day," Price says. "I think he is up to the challenge."

Coleman was a prolific tackler in high school before signing with the Tigers in February 2005.

Coleman notes that he wonders if he will be nervous playing in front of 80,000-plus fans and a national television audience on Saturday night. "I have been thinking about that even since I found out I was in the playing rotation, but I think if I just keep my head on straight and do what I am supposed to do I will be all right," he says.

In addition to being excited about having a chance to play in games, Coleman says he likes Auburn's defensive system. He will play like a end and like a linebacker, too, depending on the call from new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

The Tigers look like they will have a solid group of defensive ends this year even though Stanley McClover, a potential starter, left early for the NFL.

"I think we are going to travel five defensive ends," Coleman says. "Q is a great player and (Marquies) Gunn is back. I think he started all 12 of the games last year. We have Christopher Browder back, too. I think we have a great group. We just have to keep working hard and get better every day and take that into the games."

Price says the Tigers will probably play five defensive ends with sophomore Octavius Balkcom also in the mix.

Coleman says he is just about ready for game time to arrive. "I know my plays. I am watching a lot of film on Washington State so I will know their tendencies. On Saturday I want to come out there focused ready to do what I have to do for us to win the game. I have played in a lot of scrimmages, but it won't be anything like the adrenaline rush that I will get playing in front of 80,000 people."

Kickoff time is 6:45 p.m. from Jordan-Hare Stadium and the game will be televised by ESPN2.


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