Auburn, Ala.--When Coach Paul Rhoads took over as Auburn's defensive coordinator replacing Will Muschamp, one of the first orders of business was to find replacements for departed cornerbacks Patrick Lee and Jonathan Wilhite.
While Jerraud Powers was all but penciled in on one side after playing last season as the starter opposite Lee, one spot is up for grabs this spring with the battle going on between juniors Walter McFadden and Aairon Savage. Looking good so far after playing sparingly last season, McFadden says that the transition to a new coach has helped him in his quest for a starting role.
"It's going pretty well," McFadden says. "Coach Rhoads is a good coach. We usually play nothing but man, but we love what we've got going on right now. It's a new thing for us. We're making plays out there right now. It's something new for us and we're ready to learn with it."
One of Auburn's fastest players and someone who has become a more physical player since arriving on campus, McFadden has all the tools to be a good cornerback in the SEC. Rhoads says McFadden needs to become a more consistent player on every play, something they're working on this spring.
"He's shown his talent," Rhoads says. "What he hasn't shown is enough urgency like a guy who wants to own a position and not turn it over to anybody. For example, he made a nice interception by doing little more than being in the right place at the right time. He was doing his job, but the interception was a gift. The next play he didn't perform well.
"That's what I refer to as one play at a time," Rhoads says. "The previous play was a great play, but it's done. You've got to let it go and move on. He didn't do a good enough job of doing that. A great player or starter does."
Working with the first team through the first half of spring practice, McFadden has been given the chance to show what he's capable of against the best Auburn has to offer. He says even though he knows it's not a given, he feels like he's doing what he needs in order to win the job.
"It's a chance for me to step up and be one of the team leaders on defense," McFadden says. "I want to show what I can do and also be a team player and help out the defense."
Playing most;y man-to-man defense under Muschamp in his career, McFadden along with Powers and Savage have all gotten used to playing that style. He notes that it's not what they grew up playing, which is what they're back doing under Rhoads.
"If you think about it our 2005 DB class we all came from playing off," McFadden says. "We didn't know too much about playing man. By us having Muschamp we learned how to play man. With Coach Rhoads we get to play off. Now we're just getting back used to it again."
With seven practice days left in the spring, including the A-Day game on March 29, McFadden has plenty of chances left to show that he's the man for the job for the Tigers in 2008. He says that right now he's taking nothing for granted and just plans to keep working towards his goal of becoming a starter.
"It was like my hard work finally paid off," McFadden says. "It just gave me more confidence to do better and keep working hard. Right now I'm just working on everything, my backpedal, jamming at the line, everything. There is always a way to get better."