The six-foot-three freshman from Opelika High School performed well in the practices after spending the fall going through strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall's workouts while also helping prepare the Auburn squad for each game as a member of the scout team. The freshman is currently involved in offseason weight training and conditioning drills.
"Zach Clayton is doing really well," defensive line coach Don Dunn says. "He has shown that he is versatile enough we can play him inside (at tackle) or outside (at end). He is going to be a real fine football player. The thing I like about him is that his motor runs all of the time."
Clayton arrived at Auburn after an impressive senior season in high school when he played very well at defensive end for Coach Spence McCracken's Opelika Bulldgs in the fall and became the first athlete in Alabama high school history to throw a discus more than 200 feet while successfully defending his Class 6A state title in the event.
"I am getting better," Clayton says of his work on the football field. "I think the redshirt year has helped me a lot. I think I have been able to adjust to the tempo of college football where the game is a whole lot faster."
Although he only played end in high school, Clayton is getting a look at tackle because he has added a significant amount of weight since last summer when he reported to AU weighing 255 pounds.
"I weigh 275 now and I don't have any certain goal for my weight, but I would like to be up to 285 to 290," he notes.
"I am not sure right now where I am going to play," Clayton adds. "Wherever I can help the team the most is fine with me."
So far Clayton, a finance major, has made a smooth adjustment to college life. "It has been a great experience for me going through all of the freshman workouts," he says. "They have really helped me."
Clayton wore No. 44 in bowl practice as part of the scout team as he played the role of Nebraska defensive end Jay Moore.
Clayton's Tigers posted an 11-2 record last season and will take the field again on Feb. 27 for spring practice. The annual A-Day spring game is set for Saturday, March 17th.
Clayton points out that there haven't been a lot of surprises so far in his first year on campus. "I just had to get used to the work ethic and pick that up," he says. "School is going real well. I am making real good grades. I am real happy with that."
With his dad, Jerry Clayton, being an Auburn University track and field coach, that made the transition to college easier. "I think that has helped me some, but I have had to learn things from the ground up because I had not really experienced the college football atmosphere," the freshman says. "I had been around the track part, but not football."
Commenting on his on the field workouts, Clayton says, "I am trying to use my hands a little more. That is something I didn't do much in high school. I am learning to go full speed all of the time. I try to do that on the scout team, too, to give the guys on offense a good look at what they are going to be facing in the games."
Clayton says he plans to stick to football only as a freshman athlete to give himself the best chance to earn playing time in 2007. Defensive ends coach Terry Price says he likes what he has seen so far.
"Zach made progress during the bowl practices and has particularly improved at using his hands," Price notes. "He is physical at the point of attack and he has really good quickness for someone his size."
In addition to getting pointers from the coaches, the older players have helped, too, Clayton says. "They have shown me a lot. If you are in drills and aren't doing it perfectly right, they will give you positive feedback."
With the Tigers having to replace seniors Marquies Gunn and Christopher Browder next season, there is opportunity awaiting for a young defensive end like Clayton, who will be one of the players to watch in 2007.