Veteran Defenders Upbeat About 07 Tigers

Senior defensive linemen Quentin Groves and Josh Thompson talk about the first week of spring practice and Saturday's first scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--It wasn't the most active of spring scrimmages for two of Auburn's veteran defenders, but that didn't keep both Quentin Groves and Josh Thompson from feeling good about the play of their unit on Saturday.

While both spent part of the time on the sidelines watching some of the younger players get extensive action, Groves says several players in particular got his attention with their play.

"Hands down it's Michael Goggans," Groves says of his top young performer. "He has definitely caught my eye a lot. Zach Clayton has come out and done great. Darrell Roseman had a great scrimmage. He had some assignment busts here or there, but he got to the ball. He had six or seven tackles. I think everyone is going to get better but it was okay for the first week of spring."

Michael Goggans and Zaccheus Etheridge have both performed well in the spring.

Moving from tight end to defensive end this spring, Goggans was moved behind Groves on the weak side with Antonio Coleman moving to the strong side to start practice. Known more as a defensive end than a tight end at Benjamin Russell High in Alexander City, Goggans' athleticism is apparent and Groves says that's not the best quality for the young player.

"You teach him something one time and he knocks it out on the first try," Groves says of Goggans. "You don't have to tell him three or four times to do something. He gets it on the first try and does it well."

One of six returning starters on defense for the Tigers, Thompson has been a big part of Auburn's defense the last three seasons and says he likes what he sees out of the defense to this point. A gamer who loves to play, Thompson says scrimmage situations like the one last Saturday and another one coming this weekend are what you live for as a player and makes for a true test for a team.

"I love the game situation a lot better than just going out there and practicing," Thompson says. "It is a great environment. We had a good crowd out there and got after it a little bit. It was just a good day of practice.

"Days like Friday and Saturday when we're all together and you don't have guys missing because of class, those are good for us," he adds. "We're coming together as a group and I think we'll progress even more this week because now we know where we're at after the first week."

Josh Thompson goes face to face with Leon Hart in a pass rush drill.

While Groves singled out several players at his own position, Thompson says that the player who stood out the most to him was at linebacker. Junior Chris Evans led the way for the Tigers in terms of tackles with 11 after taking over for an injured Merrill Johnson. He notes that Groves and fellow linebacker Patrick Trahan both did well for a defense that had some bright spots.

"Chris played really hard," Thompson says. "He made some big hits. Pat made some hits. We all did pretty good in certain areas. We've got some things we did bad in. overall I think we did pretty good as a defense."

With one scrimmage under their belts, Thompson says the Tigers' defense is just going to keep working the rest of the spring to be as good as possible heading into two-a-days next August.

"We've got some things to get corrected, but we'll watch the film and get those corrected," Thompson says. "Everybody gave great effort overall. Everything we did wrong we can correct and get better at. I think we're going to be just fine."

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