Senior Roderick Hood Juggling Multiple Roles

Auburn, Ala.--For former walk-on <b>Roderick Hood</b>, this should be a very busy and challenging final season as an Auburn football player for a variety of reasons.

The 5-10, 193-pound senior from Columbus, Ga., is scheduled to be in the starting lineup as a cornerback on defense and the primary returner for kickoffs and punts. In excellent condition after an injury-plagued junior year, Hood is primed for his best season and the speedy senior says he is ready to show what he can do.

"I am excited about the USC game," he says. "You can't help but get excited. I mean, we have been working hard through the spring, summer and two-a-days. It's about a week away so we are looking forward to it. The defense is up. The offense is up."

Roderick Hood

When new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik came in and made major changes in the secondary, he decided to leave Hood at cornerback. With a bigger and more physical Carlos Rogers scheduled to start at the other corner plus senior Travaris Robinson at free safety and Junior Rosegreen at strong safety, the Tigers have been a physical, aggressive bunch since spring training.

"It is looking good in the secondary," Hood says. "It is the first team and the second team, too. We have just got to stay in the ball game, know what our call is, and know where we can get hurt at. And, we have got to watch each other's back. It's got to be like a brotherhood back there. I think that we look real good."

One of the reasons that Hood can say that the secondary has looked good in the preseason is the way the group has been attacking receivers and running backs. "We are more aggressive," he notes. "Coach Chizik is aggressive and I think we have taken on a little bit of his attitude and his playing style. We are just out there having fun."

Having fun and being aggressive are two of the main lessons that Chizik has brought to the defense since he replaced John Lovett as defensive coordinator earlier this year.

As a junior, Hood battled through shoulder and leg injuries to start 10 games. He finished the season with 24 solo tackles, five assists, one sack and one fumble recovery while intercepting three passes. He became the first Tiger since 1994 to intercept a pass in three straight contests.

As a sophomore, he played in 13 games as a reserve and finished with 32 solo tackles and 12 assists. Prior to the season, he was awarded a scholarship for his good work in spring practice, the preseason and during his true freshman year in which he had eight tackles with most of his work on special teams.

As a sophomore, he returned five kickoffs for a 27.0 average and last fall he had 18 for an average of 17.9. He added the punt return duties last year. He had 15 returns for an average of 10.3 yards.

With his main competition Joe Walkins slowed by a thigh injury, Hood is the main man for returning both punts and kickoffs as the Tigers open the season.

"I want to take returns to the house this year," says Hood. "I am looking forward to the opportunity." The senior says if the Tigers do score some touchdowns on punt or kickoff returns this year, it won't be by accident. "Coach (Eddie) Gran, who coaches special teams, has put in a lot of blocking schemes on the returns. I believe things are going to be really positive this year for our kicking teams. We have put a lot more emphasis on returns. The coaches have faith in me. It is looking real positive."

Hood and cornerback coach Phillip Lolley are shown in preseason practice.

Hood's position coach, Phillip Lolley, says that he is expecting Hood's best season this fall. "With Rashaud Walker competing for playing time at the same position, Roderick has to play real well just to stay in the lineup."

Hood says that to please his position coach, you had better not show signs of being a slacker. "Coach Lolley is probably the most aggressive coach out there," Hood notes. "Every play, every snap, he is out there making sure you know what you are supposed to do. It seems like he plays through us and we play for Coach Lolley."

Another cornerback who has caught Lolley's eye this preseason is sophomore Lamel Ages, who followed the same route to AU that Hood did. Just like Roderick, he was an option quarterback at Carver High in Columbus. Just like Hood, he walked on at Auburn with an invitation from offensive line coach Hugh Nall, who recruits Columbus for the Tigers. And, just like Hood, he has been rewarded for hard work and good performance with a scholarship.

"I was the one who tried to get him up here," Hood says with a smile. "I told him to come on up and he had a good opportunity to play. When he got here, I told him just to work hard. We worked out here together and we would go home and work out over the summer and stuff. I knew he was going to get a scholarship because he put in hard work to get it. I am very happy for him. Very happy."

Like Hood, Ages is a bit undersized but makes up for it with quick feet and hustle. Hood says, "Lamel looked at me and saw what I did and tired to pattern himself after me. Then, after he did that, he kept working hard and just took his play to another level. He was working real hard and I told him that big things are going to happen for him."

Lamel Ages

Ages is expected to play in a backup role behind cornerback Carlos Rogers while Hood works on the other side of the field. Both should see plenty of action in the opener. Hood says he is looking forward to the trip across the country.

"I have been to a lot of places in the world, but I have never been to California so I am looking forward to it," Hood says of the game vs. the Trojans that will be televised by ABC on Monday night. "I am looking forward to playing a good USC team. We know they are going to be good. It is going to be exciting. It is the only game on TV that night so how big can that be?"

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