Etheridge Earning His Stripes

Auburn, Ala.--Two-a-days is often the most grueling time of year for football players. The Tigers have had to endure the 100-degree heat and high humidity sweeping through the Southeast, and it seems like half of the team has suffered a concussion, pulled a hamstring or is just plain beat up.

It's a time of perseverance until the August heat has simmered down and until the players can get their legs back, but safety Zac Etheridge has a different--and possibly strange--mindset about the preseason practice.

"I have a lot of fun," Etheridge says. "It's fun being out here, being an Auburn Tiger and playing football every day. It doesn't matter how hard you grind, you're just out here having fun with everybody. It's been pretty hot out here, but that's football."

Etheridge says he's in excellent shape and has actually gained a few pounds here and there through the first two weeks of August. Since conditioning hasn't been an issue, it's given him a chance to focus on his assignments and earn reps with the No. 1 defense.

"It's just studying my playbook, focusing on that, taking what I learn in the film room to the field, and just compete every day I come out here," he explains. "I just came in to compete, compete and compete--just see what happens. It's every guy's dream is to compete and do what they have to do to get on the field."

Etheridge puts a hit on Mario Fannin.

In coordinator Will Muschamp's system, the Tigers don't run much true free and strong safety positions. It's mostly left and right, which are interchangeable depending on the strongside of the offense. Eric Brock is a returning two-year starter at one of the safety spots alongside Aairon Savage, but Etheridge could be the opening night starter against Kansas State.

"Right now we're just running left and right safety," he explains. "We're just moving guys and seeing what the best combination is. Some days Eric will be with the ones or I'll be with the ones. Right now I don't think I've separated myself from him. Brock's still doing good, we're still competing and by the time camp is over with we'll see who is starting."

Etheridge, 6-0 205, is also working against slot receivers in the Dime package and Brock comes in at the safety spot. "It's different in the box and you're going against faster receivers down there," Etheridge notes. "Just trying to get coverage is pretty tough compared to playing deep at safety."

The Tigers return to practice on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on the intramural fields.

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories