A linebacker by trade, the Birmingham native was moved to defensive end last week because of injuries and the coaching staff was so impressed by what it saw they now plan to feature him in the defense in certain situations beginning Saturday against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
"I think moving Mayo Sowell to defensive end is going to help us (in pass rush situations)," Coach Tommy Tuberville said on Sunday. "It's going to give us a little more strength at defensive end, a little more depth."
At 6-1, 227 pounds, Sowell doesn't have the size you would like at the position, but many in the college setting have excelled despite being undersized. Just last season Dwight Freeney from Syracuse destroyed the Auburn offense single-handedly at just 245 pounds and Sowell said that he'll use the things he's learned from watching others to try to get the job done. After having his first game experience at end on Saturday and later watching it on film, Sowell said that he saw something he needs to improve in order to get to the quarterback.
"I didn't have an idea of how much difference that could make," Sowell said of getting off the ball. "I would get just a second away from him and he would let the ball go. Then I look on film and if I would have gotten off better I would have gotten to him. ‘Get off the ball.' That's what Coach (Don) Dunn keeps stressing to me. That helps out a lot."
Focusing on correcting the mistakes from Saturday's 56-0 win, the Tigers worked on all aspects of the game but spent a great deal of time on special teams to begin the practice. Seeing what happened on Saturday around the country in punt protection situations, the Tigers stressed that on Sunday with a session on getting punts off against a heavy punt block rush.
Quarterback Daniel Cobb is currently 7th in the SEC in pass efficiency at 115.7 with 20 completions in 38 attempts this season for 270 yards and one touchdown.
Offensively, coordinator Bobby Petrino said the Tigers had very few adjustments to make during Sunday's practice after a productive and relatively mistake free game against Western Carolina. Despite playing a variety of players at each position, he said that for the most part the offense did exactly what he asked of them.
"We were pleased," Petrino said. "We were certainly a better team than they were so that made it easier for us. But we did see a lot more improvement in the execution of the plays and the understanding of what we need to get done. We just have to keep getting better.
"We saw a lot of good things. We got to play a lot of young guys. I think our offensive line is starting to come around. Danny Lindsey did a good job at center filling in for Ben (Nowland). Taylor Bourgeois showed some promise. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go again this week. We still made some mistakes. We made some assignment errors, but for the most part the guys were playing hard and executing."
After playing two games in a span of just six days, the Auburn Tigers are remarkably healthy heading into the conference opener against the Vanderbilt Commodores this Saturday with just Bourgeois coming out of the Western Carolina game gimpy after bruising his arch Saturday. Auburn held out starters Ben Nowland (knee and ankle), Dontarrious Thomas (knee), Reggie Torbor (ankle) and Jay Ratliff (ankle) to make sure they were 100 percent for another upcoming stretch of two games in five days when the Tigers play Mississippi State on Thursday night following a home game vs. Vandy this week.
"They could have all played yesterday, but we took a chance," Tuberville said. "Obviously, if they would have had to go back in they could have played. But it is hard to tell a guy, ‘We're going to try to hold you out' then you get them full speed out there and they really get them into the game. We held everybody out that needed to be held out."
Saying they will all be ready to play this week, both Thomas and Nowland returned to practice Sunday while Torbor and Ratliff continued to rehab and should be back on Tuesday. Defensive end Kyle Derozan was doing some light jogging on the sidelines during the practice after riding the stationary bike and Tuberville said the defensive end could return following the Mississippi State game in two weeks.
The Tigers get back to the normal routine this week when they take Monday off before getting back to work on Tuesday evening. They will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before having a walk-through Friday.