Diamond Looks To Shine For Home Folks

Senior tight end Lorenzo Diamond talks about his last trip to Mississippi as a Auburn Tiger and the maturity of the 2002 team.

Auburn, Ala.—For any football player in the SEC, a conference game is a special event that they look forward to each week. Playing Ole Miss is particularly special to two Auburn players this week because it means a trip home to play football.

Senior tight end Lorenzo Diamond and sophomore quarterback Jason Campbell both hail from the Magnolia State and are looking forward to Saturday's game with glee.

The trip home means the duo is competing for tickets for Saturday's game. While they gladly trade their Georgia or other home tickets to teammates for the anticipation of this week, Diamond says that in the end his needs come first in the ticket department this time around.

"I have a lot more pull than Jason has," Diamond said. "Jason is still a young buck and he has to learn that seniors come first. I need the tickets worse than he does. He has a couple of more years. This is my last go-around."

His senior season has already been filled with more ups-and-downs than a rollercoaster, but that hasn't kept the always upbeat Diamond from being his usual jovial self. With just four catches for 67 yards and one touchdown this year, he has taken on more of a role as a leader this season in the absence of players like Kendall Simmons and Tim Carter off last season's offense. Despite the fact that so many young players are seeing action this season, Diamond says this team is wise beyond its years.

"These guys are real mature," Diamond said. "They realize it's not the end of the world when we lose a game. They know how to come back and how to practice and get things back on track. I think this is a real mature group of guys."

Part of that maturing process began just two weeks ago when starting tailback Carnell Williams went down with a season-ending injury against the Florida Gators. The unquestioned top playmaker and star of the offensive unit, Williams lay on the turf of Florida Field and Diamond said that could wind up being the difference in this team in 2002. Instead of mourning the loss, the team came out fighting and has responded with its stretch of football this season.

"When Carnell went down I think we stepped up to another level," Diamond said. "I think the offense really felt like one of our soldiers is down so somebody else had to pick it up. I think all 11 of us picked it up starting in the second half of the Florida game. I don't think there is going to be a letdown in any way. Like I said, this is a mature group. They are going to go out and work hard and try to win."

What was started at Florida carried over into last week's 31-7 thrashing of the 10th-ranked LSU Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Entering the game with the nation's top-ranked defense, LSU was no match for an Auburn offense that controlled the line of scrimmage on the way to 216 yards rushing and 321 yards of total offense. Diamond said while he didn't see that coming he knew the team would get off to a better start than in previous weeks.

"I thought that we would come out and play with a lot more emotion in the first half," Diamond said. "That was preached and belted into our heads all week that we had to come out fast if we wanted to win the game. In the locker room before we even went out I told the offense, ‘Look, we have to go out and put points on the board. We can't lay back and try to let the defense win this game for us. We have to go out and do what we have to do to move the ball and be consistent to keep our defense off the field'.

That same sentiment is true this week as Eli Manning and the Ole Miss offense will present the Tiger offense with a big challenge of trying to match points with the Rebels. Diamond said this week the main goal of the offense is to control the ball and keep the SEC's leading passer off the field as much as possible. If that happens then he says that he believes Auburn will come away victorious.

"Eli is going to throw the ball downfield this week and he's going to make some big plays. We have to keep our defense and their offense off the field as much as possible."

Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and can be seen regionally on Jefferson Pilot Sports.

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