Coleman Excited About Two-Position Role

Sophomore defensive end Antonio Coleman talks about his new role as a linebacker as well as his defensive end position.

Auburn, Ala.--In Saturday night's loss to South Florida, one of the bright spots on the defense was the play of the ends. Quentin Groves, Antonio Coleman and true freshman Antoine Carter all played well despite falling to the Bulls.

Playing one of the better games he's had as a Tiger, Coleman had three tackles, one sack and five quarterback hurries on the night. While the game didn't end in a win for the Tigers, Coleman says it gave him and the defense some things to build on to get ready for SEC play.

"I played all right," Coleman points out. "I didn't play my best. I got out there and gave great effort. There were some mistakes that I've got to correct. Overall, it was an all right game.

"We knew coming out it was going to be a defensive game," he adds. "We talked to the coaches and they said it was going to be a dogfight. We knew we just had to come out and handle our business. We knew we were going to have to carry them (the offense), but it just so happens on that last drive they got the touchdown. We feel like, as a defense, we've got to pick it up even more."

Playing at the same time with Groves as part of a special defensive package designed to get more speed on the field on defense, Coleman got banged up Saturday night when he and Groves ran into one another in the backfield trying to sack USF quarterback Matt Grothe. Knocking his shoulder out of place momentarily while also bending back a few fingers on his right hand, Coleman says it was tough to move for a few moments, but now he's feeling fine.

"That's what Coach (Terry) Price tells us," Coleman says. "It's good for two defensive ends to meet at the ball and hit the quarterback. If it happens like that again, it just happens."

Playing more of a 3-4 defense that features both Groves and Coleman as outside linebackers in certain packages, the Tigers have become more multiple under second-year coordinator Will Muschamp. For Coleman it has been a welcome change. Down to 244 pounds after checking in at over 260 in the spring, Coleman notes that he's adjusting well to life as a two-position player.

"It's better to play two positions than one," Coleman says. "That's what I think. I think you're more valuable to the team. Obviously playing linebacker and defensive end, I think you're more valuable going to the next level, too. It's just fun. I love playing linebacker. I love playing defensive end.

"I didn't know Muschamp was coming here," he adds. "Like I told you before, he wanted me to play linebacker at LSU. I ran away from it then, but I love it right now. I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Playing sparingly to give either Coleman or Groves a break, Carter has come on strong in the first two games of his young career for the Tigers. Against South Florida the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. native had three tackles, a sack, and three quarterback hurries to put himself on the map as a player to watch on Auburn's defense. Coleman said the youngster is going to be a big part of the Tiger defense the rest of the year.

"I think he's a great player," Coleman says of Carter. "He really came in and made some big plays for us when me and Q were blowed. Hats off to him, I hope he gets better. Obviously, he's going to get more playing time. He's a really big help to me and Q."

For the second consecutive week, Auburn's defense had to try to play lights out football while the offense sputtered to get things going. It worked enough in the season opener against Kansas State to get a victory, but against South Florida five turnovers did in the Tigers. Coleman says although everyone was disappointed after the game there is no getting down on the offense because everyone is working for the same goal.

"We come to Auburn and the offense has to do its thing. The defense has to do its thing, the special teams, also. Obviously, they're not clicking ,but we have to get turnovers and make big plays on defense. We're just going to have to protect them a little bit more. They're young and Cox (Brandon Cox) isn't doing too well. We're still going to push them and get the offense going."

The Tigers open SEC play this weekend against a Mississippi State team coming off an impressive victory over Tulane last week in New Orleans. Coleman says he feels like it will be a breakout game for the Tigers because of his belief in everyone on this 2007 team.

"As long as I can trust fellas out there and I know they'll ride with me I don't have a problem with it," Coleman says. "I feel like everybody on the defense, I can trust them and I can ride with them. Everybody on the offense I can trust them and special teams also. We just have to pick it up a little bit. We're slacking a little here or there but we'll make corrections."

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