Auburn, Ala.--When you look at Quentin Groves' situation from the outside it was almost a given he would be leaving Auburn for the NFL. Already married and with his degree, Groves had already done plenty on the collegiate level and had budding family to support.
Unfortunately, that's not where the story ends for Auburn's number two all-time sack leader with 23. Back home in Greenville, Miss. his parents are struggling to make ends meet each month as well. With those problems weighing on his mind Groves took stock of his future for much of the last month and on Monday came to the conclusion that a return to Auburn for his senior season was the best decision he could make not only for himself but for his family as well. While he'll make some sacrifices for the next year Groves says he and his wife Treska Baptiste Groves will make it work.
"It's kind of tough because my father is sort of on his last leg so to speak," Groves says. "He's doing every thing he can but it still doesn't seem to be enough. I have sat down with my wife and we've sat down and figured out how much money we actually spend a month. Some of the money that we spend a month we can send back home to help them."
Both Groves and his wife have both already received their degrees from Auburn with Treska's in communications. Although she's currently looking for a job it still means for some tough times over the course of the next year for the Groves' family while Quentin plays out his senior season and prepares himself for the NFL. Groves says that sometimes you have to sacrifice a little for things to pay off in the long run.
"When she finds a job we'll be in a better position," Groves says. "If you look at it, in college every thing is structured. With our scholarship check we get more than enough to accommodate me and her. We should be fine. We just have to go back by the book for 12 months. It's going to be hard but it will pay off in the end."
Groves works during bowl practices in Dallas.
For much of his senior season Groves contended that he had no plans of leaving Auburn for the NFL after his junior season. That was still the case leading up to the week of the Alabama game but following that game Groves says he had basically decided to change his mind and enter the draft but with another two months to think things over he decided that staying was the best choice for him.
To help him in his final decision Groves only had to look at the recent history of Auburn players in the NFL Draft to make up his mind. Players such as Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams, Carlos Rogers and Jason Campbell all stuck things out for their senior seasons and benefited greatly. On the other hand players such as Robert Johnson and Groves' best friend Stanley McClover were left wondering what could have happened if they stayed. Groves says he took everything into account before deciding his best bet was to come back.
"You look back at that and you look at the other side of the spectrum too," Groves says. "If I stay and get injured then I drop like Marcus McNeill. If I stay and I go up like Ronnie with the second pick, there are two sides to either story. I think staying outweighs leaving. With Carnell, Ronnie, Jason, Carlos Rogers then you look at Stanley and Robert Johnson and guys like that it makes the decision kind of easy. Then again it's still kind of hard."
Hearing anywhere from the third to the fifth round by most NFL teams on his evaluation, Groves says he's anxious to get back on the field and in the weight room to get ready for next season. With Auburn playing more of a 3-4 defense in 2006 and with the expectation of even more coming in 2007 in the second year of Coach Will Muschamp's system, Groves says the possibility of being a player like Shawne Merriman is exciting. Before that happens Groves says he has a lot of work to do in the meantime.
"Number one is to get bigger," Groves says. "When I come into two-a-days I want to be at least 265. Another thing is to develop more pass rushing moves and become more comfortable in coverage. It's kind of hard being that I have never dropped so much. I had never understood offenses. Now that I have the time without so much of a class load I can sit in with Coach Muschamp and Coach (Terry) Price and Coach (James) Willis and the defensive staff and see what offenses like to do and why they call certain defenses in certain situations. That would better incline me to become a better football player."
The return of Groves is a huge burst of energy to an Auburn program coming off another outstanding season. Finishing the year 11-2 and ranked eighth in the final poll, the Tigers have some big shoes to fill on both offense and defense but Groves says he sees big things in the future for his team.
"I think honestly we're going to shock some people," Groves says. "People say we lost our whole offensive line and we lost a great running back in Kenny Irons and a great receiver in Courtney Taylor but yet in still we gain so much more. We've got a great receiver in Tim Hawthorne who is a freshman. It's kind of rare you see a freshman that big. He's doing great for us on the scout team. Our offensive line has great guys. We've got Andrew McCain and Tyronne Green and Leon Hart. He's kind of an unsung hero. He's a senior this year and can block you in the dirt once he gets on the field.
"Defensive-wise we've got to shore up the other end and we lost some linebackers but we've got great linebackers coming back in Merrill (Johnson) and Tray (Blackmon)," he adds "Our secondary might be one of the best in the country. We've got a great team coming back next year."
One of the question marks for the team is at linebacker where Blackmon is currently suspended indefinitely and is a possibility to miss spring practice because of the suspension. Add to that the losses of Will Herring, Karibi Dede and Kevin Sears. Groves says he expects Blackmon to be on the field next season and he wants to make sure the talented linebacker remains on track from here on out.
"As a senior and as a teammate I have to take him to the mat and just talk to him," Groves says. "I don't know his home situation or anything like that but it seems as though he's a little misguided. It's so easy to do the wrong things when you're influenced, which happens with all freshmen. He had a big name coming in and he thinks he has to live up and do everything everybody else is doing. In all actuality he doesn't."