Coleman Looking For Stiff Challenge From USM

Auburn junior Antonio Coleman talks about this week's game against Southern Miss and about his dynamic play to start last week's win.

Auburn, Ala.--Antonio Coleman is no stranger to making big plays. Last season the defensive led Auburn with 18 1/2 tackles for losses and 8 1/2 sacks as he took over the starting job from Quentin Groves.

Last Saturday night Coleman picked up where he left off as his sack and forced fumble on the first defensive play for the Tigers led to a Michael Goggans touchdown. For Coleman the joy wasn't in only making the play, but the end result that gave Goggans something to remember.

"I was just happy making the hit and knocking the ball out," Coleman says. "I was even happier for him to get his first career touchdown in the first game he starts. He got out there and played a good game. He got player of the week for the defense."

A former tight end turned defensive end, Goggans takes over on the strong side at end for Sen'Derrick Marks, who is now patrolling things from a defensive tackle position for the Tigers. Coleman says Goggans has really come on since making the move over as a freshman.

"When he first got over there he was slow and I thought it might not work," Coleman notes. "Mike Goggans has come a long way. I credit him for all the hard work and for all the things I taught him and all the things he wanted to learn from me. He's doing great and I think he's going to be a great contributor to this team."

In his first career start, Goggans joined fellow first-timers Mike Blanc, Walter McFadden and Michael McNeil in helping Auburn to a shutout victory over ULM. Coleman points out in addition to the starters several young players caught his eye. Among them were freshmen cornerbacks Neiko Thorpe and D'Antoine Hood.

"The one that sticks out to me is Neiko," Coleman says "He played an excellent game. He had seven or eight tackles and got the hammer award (for a big hit). I think he's going to be a real great player for us. I like him playing behind me any day. Hood is still coming along slowly. He got out there and got his feet wet. Both of them still have a long way to go."

Antonio Coleman

Coleman, Goggans and company will face a stiff challenge this weekend against the powerful Golden Eagle offense from Southern Miss. Putting 51 points on the board in the season opener and setting a school record for total offense with 633 yards, Coleman says the USM offense will be a stern test beginning with the offensive line.

"They've got a good team," he says. "Their offensive line is 6-6, 350 at tackle and he transferred from Mississippi State. You've got another one that is 6-6, 310 and hasn't given up a sack in two seasons. They're a great offensive line and zone team. They've got an excellent running back. We're just going to have to go out there and put a hat on them and be physical."

That offensive line features one of the country's biggest players in 6-6, 353 junior tackle Calvin Wilson. Joining him up front are 6-2, 287 senior guard Wesley Housley, 6-1, 297 sophomore center Cameron Zipp, 6-5, 310 junior guard Ryan Hebert and 6-6, 291 senior tackle Ryan McKee. While the offensive line is big, the star of the show is running back Damion Fletcher.

A preseason All-American candidate after rushing for more than 1,000 yards each of his first two seasons, the 5-10, 177 junior got his year off to a huge start on Saturday with 222 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener. Coleman notes Fletcher is talented, but in this game it's all about what Auburn does to make sure the Tigers are as prepared as possible.

"I'm not worried about that," Coleman says of the running back's impressive numbers. "I think we've faced better. He's a great running back and he's great at what they do, which is run the spread offense. It's no huddle and NASCAR (Auburn's term of up-tempo). You just have to get the guys ready for the no huddle.

"We've faced it against our offense but it's going to be much faster in a game," Coleman adds. "I'm not too much worried about what they're doing. I'm worried about how we're preparing for the week."

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