Doing Double Duty On Defense

This Tiger football player discusses how he is handling his assignment at two very different positions.

Auburn, Ala.--For many student athletes the constant barrage of schoolwork, practice, team meetings, watching video and learning their position can be pretty tough. However, for Auburn sophomore Mayo Sowell, the difficulty has been increased by learning and working at two positions on the football field this season.

Sowell had been working exclusively at linebacker until depth problems on the defensive front forced the 6-1, 223-pounder to take on the role of defensive end early on this season. Although Sowell has been working hard to learn the ins and outs of defensive end, he notes that he has still been practicing at linebacker as well.

Mayo Sowell is a redshirt sophomore for the Tigers.

While pulling double duty may seem tough, Sowell says that the main problem has simply been getting tuned into the basics at his new position. "The fundamentals, just closing to the hips, staying square, don't be too fast when the play goes away from you," he says. "You have got to watch reverses and you have got to watch cutbacks, stuff like that."

The Tigers' utility defender also notes that there are some discipline differences between linebacker and defensive end. "When you see the ball you want to run to it at linebacker, but at defensive end you can't run to it as quickly. You have got to wait until you see the ball first and make sure it is gone and then you run to it."

In his first couple of games at defensive end Sowell looked a bit odd at the position. This is because he was still using an unorthodox stance for a defensive end. He was standing upright with his hand off of the ground in more of a linebacker stance. But now Sowell says that a more traditional three-point stance is beginning to help him even though he sees advantages to both stances.

"I like both of them, but I am playing down more because it gets me out of bad habits," he notes. "I like standing up, too. I can see better standing up, but it doesn't matter. I just listen to Coach (Terry) Price and do what he tells me to do."

Mayo Sowell

In his short tenure at defensive end, Sowell has already been able to wreak some havoc on opposing quarterbacks. He has made big plays forcing fumbles by both Mississippi State quarterback Kevin Fant and Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, which was returned for a touchdown by fellow defensive lineman Spencer Johnson.

Sowell says that he is always thinking about making big plays when he is both on and off the field. "Every time you have plans of what you want to do," he says. "You want to cause a big play, make an interception, make a fumble. I kind of visualize plays like that a lot because I think about football a lot just sitting at home and watching it at home."

Sowell also notes that defensive coordinator Gene Chizik's attitude has helped him. "Coach Chizik says to always visualize how you want to play, so I visualize I want to strip the ball, I want to get an interception, I want to sack the quarterback and make him fumble. I just want to do a lot of stuff."

The sophomore has been a menace at both linebacker and defensive end thus far in his early career and shows promise at both positions. Still, Sowell says that he is certain about where he would like his future home on the football field to be.

"I'll play both of them. You know, I would like to play linebacker on first and second down. On third and three play linebacker and third and eight play defensive end some. There are a lot of linebackers in the NFL that did that like Kevin Greene, Dewayne Rudd, Cornelius Bennett. There are a lot of them that are doing that now."

Sowell says that if he had to make a decision on one position to play it would be a tough one to say the least. "I like linebacker. Linebacker is cool, but D-end is fun, it is just playing really. As for future-wise I would say linebacker/D-end."

The immediate future includes at Saturday morning home game as the Tigers face LSU in an 11:30 kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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