Dislocating several toes in a victory over Florida way back on Sept. 29, Groves has battled and continued to play despite not being healthy. All the way he's kept his smile and good attitude, something that obviously has continued into bowl preparations for the Tigers. When asked about his toes he only makes light of the situation.
"It's getting better," Groves says. "It's probably 80 or 82 percent give or take." When asked how he knew the difference between the two, Groves answers with a straight face, "When the toe starts jumping that's 82."
With Groves not playing full speed, it gave sophomore Antonio Coleman the chance to see more playing time, time he had already earned by performing well early in the season. Becoming one of the most dominant defenders in the SEC this season, Coleman finished the regular season with 36 tackles, 17 tackles for losses, and seven sacks. He also added a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Groves is expected to be an early selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Even with all those numbers it wasn't Coleman that got post-season recognition, but Groves. The senior says that in his opinion it was Coleman that deserved the honors this year.
"I promise you I am (surprised)," Groves says. "To have a season like he had, he should have been rewarded for it. Me and him talked about it. He was just like ‘it gives me more momentum going into next year'."
Groves and the Auburn defense spent the five bowl practices on campus working hard on fundamentals as the Tigers spent more time than usual on the field for bowl practices. Groves says it was good for the defense to get some work in and he thinks it will be helpful when the Tigers take the field in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve in Atlanta.
"It has just been longer," Groves says. "This is probably the longest bowl practices I have been a part of, but it has been good. I think we needed to get back to the fundamentals. We worked a lot of fundamental stuff along with a lot of Clemson stuff. It's something we needed."
Much of the reason for the longer practices was to give the offense a chance to get its footing under new coordinator Tony Franklin. Trying to install as much of his spread attack as possible without overloading things, Groves says he's gotten to see some of the changes and he likes what they are doing. He also says it's something he enjoys working against as a defensive player and that's good news for Auburn fans because he'll see plenty of similar things from Clemson.
"I haven't seen too much," Groves says of Franklin's offense. "They've got a wrinkle here or a wrinkle there, but that's about it.
"It makes you think more, so I like it," Groves says. "Any time you get to use your mind more it's always good."