AU Freshman Has Chance to Contribute

Early high school graduate Brent Slusher has worked his way into possible playing time thisseason.

Auburn, Ala.--Brent Slusher was hoping an early start to his college football career would increase his odds of playing as a true freshman.

The plan by the former Bell County, Ky., High School standout appears to be working, although his chances of playing in the Sept. 1st opener vs. Kansas State are at a different position than he had envisioned playing for Coach Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers.

After enrolling at Auburn as an early high school graduate in January, Slusher trained with the tight ends. However, during preseason practice he was moved to defense after the Tigers had attrition at linebacker with Patrick Trahan academically ineligible and Steve Gandy having to give up football due to concussions.

"I like linebacker a lot," Slusher says. "I like playing tight end, too, but I don't think I would have a chance to play tight end this year."

With Cole Bennett, a returning starter, back from an injury as fifth-year senior and two experienced redshirt freshmen at tight end in Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie, the Tigers look to be set at the position. More depth comes from true freshman Bailey Woods.

Slusher says he is concentrating on his technique to shed blocks, a very useful skill as a strongside linebacker. He notes the move to defense has not been a strain because he played the position throughout high school in Pineville, Ky.

Brent Slusher has a chance to help the Tigers this fall.

Auburn's coaches say Slusher has handled his new assignment well enough to be in the mix for playing time on opening night.

"I am hoping I am going to play, I think I am going to play," Slusher says. "That is what everybody is telling me, but I know that depends on me."

Slusher is being tutored by Auburn's second-year linebacker coach, James Willis, a former star linebacker for the Tigers and a former NFL player.

"I like Coach Willis," Slusher says. "I respect him a lot. He corrects you if you are wrong. He is a coach who is not going to get on you for asking questions. He wants you to get it right so that is a big help."

Slusher, who will be one of Auburn's larger linebackers at 6-2 1/2, 230-pounds, says he immediately began working on getting bigger and stronger when he arrived on campus in January. "I was on weight gain as a tight end," he says. "I had a setback (illness) at the beginning of the summer. I lost a few pounds, but I put it all back on."

Except for injuring his wrist in practice this week, a problem he says isn't serious, the freshman should enter Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Kansas State game physically ready to contribute. Mentally, he says he is making progress, too.

"At first I was worried about my assignment, but now I am starting to see how the whole defense works together as one unit," Slusher says. "It is important to know what everybody is doing around you."

Commenting on the possibility of making his college debut in a nationally televised game, Slusher says, "I am really looking forward to it. I am anxious, I am nervous. I don't if I should smile or what I should do."

He notes that he hasn't called his friends from high school to tell them to check him out on TV. "I haven't had a chance to do that because I have been so busy. I have been been concentrating on football and my classes so I really don't have much time right now."

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