Dunn: Tigers Becoming More Comfortable On D

Auburn's Don Dunn talks about the Tigers' defensive line.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn defensive line coach Don Dunn is not one to mince words. When asked about a player he's usually brutally honest in his assessment whether it be good or bad. On Wednesday Dunn took the time to talk about several of his players and about Auburn's defense heading into the 2008 season.

The biggest adjustment on the defense has come with the change from Will Muschamp to Paul Rhoads as the defensive coordinator. While there are some differences in what they do, Dunn said he thinks it's for the best both for the coaches and players.

"The fundamentals are all the same and the techniques are basically the same," Dunn said. "I think we've simplified some things. I think the kids have understood it a lot more. I feel good about what we're doing. I know the kids are getting more and more comfortable every day.

"You can see it when they're making the calls and decisions, making the right checks, getting us in the right defense. Coach (James) Willis has done an excellent job with our linebackers. They've gotten so much more confident, even since the spring. You can just see it."

Confidence is something not lacking in junior defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks. Predicted by many to be one of the top players at his position in the country, Dunn said so far Marks is doing well but has a long way to go if he wants to be in that upper echelon of players.

"I told him not to be reading the papers," Dunn said. "He had a lot of publicity that he's not used to. Going to these Playboy Mansion deals for the All-American crap (Marks actually went to a ranch in Arizona for the photo shoot). All that doesn't mean a thing until you get out on the field on Saturday. He's done everything we've asked and I expect him to have a big year."

Showing as much improvement as anyone on the defensive side of the ball has been sophomore Zach Clayton. A terror in pass rushing drills that is improving in team situations, Clayton is still learning with every rep he gets in practice. Dunn said that's something that comes with the territory and he's looking for Clayton to now transfer what he does in practice to the game field.

"He would suffer with his fundamentals when he got tired," Dunn said of Clayton. "I have not seen that this fall. Another thing we've talked about is improving his hands and fitting his hands. He would get lazy with his hands and use more of a forearm type of deal. You can't get off blocks if you don't use your hands. He's improved that. He's improved his pass rush, especially one-on-one pass rush. Now we've got to get him to take the drill to the field."

Dunn said at the moment he has five players in the projected playing rotation with Marks the only solid starter at tackle. At the noseguard position Mike Blanc is currently running with the first team with Tez Doolittle the second team. Jermarcus Ricks is currently working as the third team nose, but also working behind Marks at tackle along with Clayton. With five solid guys at the two spots Dunn said he hopes he doesn't have to use talented freshman Derrick Lykes this season.

"I don't think we will," Dunn said. "I hope not. I would love to redshirt him because he's got a lot of potential. He's just a little bit lost right now like most of the freshmen are. You never know. You're one or two injuries away. We won't make that decision probably until the third or fourth game."

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