Wilhite: "I Like The Challenge"

Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite talks about having a short-term memory at his position and why teams that challenge him only make him better.

Auburn, Ala.--For junior cornerback Jonathan Wilhite the 2006 season has been one to forget so far.

With highly regarded senior David Irons on the opposite side teams have been taking shots at Wilhite this season with regularity and against both Arkansas and South Carolina it paid off for touchdowns.

Those are plays that Wilhite says are tough to forget, but he knows part of his job is to play and then forget. Chances are he'll have to continue to fend off the competition with three games left in the season, but he says he's prepared for what is coming. One thing is for sure, Wilhite isn't backing down from the challenge as he says that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

"Myself, I have been taking it personally," Wilhite says. "David is rated real high and a lot of teams don't want to throw at him. We knew that coming into the season. I just think it's going to make me a better corner overall for next year or the games down the road.

"I like the challenge," he adds. "I know no corner is going to go without giving up a pass. I know they are going to catch some balls. I have a short-term memory and forget about the play when it happens. I just feel like it's giving me a chance to get better."

As a defense the Tigers continue to be victimized by big plays and inconsistent play, particularly in the first half of games. That again was a problem last Saturday against Ole Miss as the Rebels gained 174 yards of total offense in the first half with much of that yardage coming on a handful of plays. Wilhite says that Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp has been stressing consistency out of the unit and that's something they have not delivered in recent weeks.

"As Coach (Muschamp) stressed to us before the game, big plays will lose you games down the road against better opponents," Wilhite says. "We gave up five big plays and I think they accounted for 162 yards, just those five plays. I think overall the defense played good. We had some guys step up. We played the run better than what we had been playing in previous games. There is still room for us to get better."

Wilhite is shown in action in Auburn's season opening victory over Washington State.

One change for Auburn last week was the fact that the defense played the run extremely well. After giving up a combined 450 rushing yards against Arkansas and Florida in back to back weeks, the Tigers have been stingy in the last two games. Against Tulane and Ole Miss the defense gave up just 192 total rushing yards. Wilhite says that the leadership has increased recently and that has resulted in better and more physical play on the field.

"We kind of fell a couple of weeks, but we're getting back in rhythm," he says. "We were on the road and any game on the road is going to be hard to win no matter who you play, especially in the SEC. I think our defense overall is getting better. We've got our leaders stepping up. Being that we don't have a bye week we need guys to step up and motivate others. That's what we're getting right now."

This Saturday Wilhite and the Tigers go out of the conference for the final time in the regular season when they take on Arkansas State at Jordan-Hare Stadium. After struggling to put away teams such as Tulane and Buffalo early enough to play reserves for extended minutes, Wilhite says the team is focused on playing well and getting better in all aspects with Georgia and Alabama on the horizon.

"It's real important," Wilhite says. "Tulane, I don't think we played that good. Buffalo I don't think we played that good. Our last two games are against great teams. We could use this week to get better or worse. You're either going to take a step forwards or backwards. Coach Muschamp says he's leaving it on us. If we want to win those last two games this week is going to be important for us to take a step forward."


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