Young Defensive End Showing Progress

A.J. Greene is one of several young players looking to contribute at strongside defensive end.

Auburn, Ala.—Sen'Derrick Marks' move to strongside defensive end last season was a successful experiment with a larger than normal lineman controlling the edge of the line of scrimmage. However, with Marks moved back to tackle this season, the Auburn defense is looking at several young candidates to fill the opening like A.J. Greene and Michael Goggans.

Greene has showed so far this spring that he has the size and talent to play the position, but has also shown that he has several areas to improve.

"Right now I'm about 6-5, 275," the redshirt freshman from Brentwood Academy says. "They're still trying to get me up a little more. They're trying to get me to 285 before the season starts. I'm out there trying to really just get a spot on the depth chart right now. I'm just fighting to get out on the field and having fun."

Auburn started its spring practice in late February, much earlier than most schools around the country. The Tigers got 10 of the 15 practices in before spring break and met back on Sunday night with university classes getting started again on Monday.

Greene is pictured getting instruction from position coach Terry Price while Goggans gets a drink of water.

In the 10 practices so far this spring, Greene says he's spent most of his time working on fundamentals after redshirting last season.

"I've got to start coming off the ball a little faster and I've got to get better with my technique," he explains. "Once I get better on my technique, I'll be a whole lot better than I am right now. I've got to work on my game throughout the whole spring and all the way to the season. I've got to work on every aspect so I can be a better football player."

Another area the big but young defensive end says he's working on is mental toughness. Greene struggled with conditioning through the first scrimmage of the spring, but picked it up in the Tigers' last practice before the break, a scrimmage on March 13.

"I was focusing on coming off the ball a little bit more," Greene states. "I feel like I came off the ball and I pushed myself a little bit more–that extra step. I feel like I made that extra effort to do what I needed to do.

"To be honest with you though I feel like I've got to work on my mental toughness. When I get fatigued I get to a point where I've just got to chill, but that isn't what I've got to do. I've got to keep working. I've got to work, work, work."

Greene is working mostly with the second team at strongside end behind Goggans, a sophomore. First year defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads has taken notice of Greene and his hoping his production improves with his age and experience.

"A.J. Greene is showing us that he's young, he's willing to learn, he's taking coaching and learning to understand that coaching and improve," Rhoads notes. "I think at a later date here the light is going to go on a little bit better and he's going to make marked improvement."

The next Auburn practice is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 a.m.

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