Rookie Defensive Back Making Progress

One of Auburn's key football freshmen is becoming an important part of the team's defense.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville and his secondary coach/defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads say that Neiko Thorpe is making steady improvement.

Thorpe, who is the first cornerback off the bench for the Tigers with junior Aairon Savage lost for the season with a knee injury, says he is enjoying the role that has given him a significant amount of playing time as a true freshman.

With two college games under his belt, Thorpe says, "I feel I am doing pretty good so far and I am just planning on getting better every game."

Thorpe goes into this week's Southeastern Conference football opener at Mississippi State with six solos and two assists, which ties him with safety Zac Etheridge for fourth in total tackles.

"I am looking forward to our first conference game," Thorpe says. "The coaches emphasize that every game counts and there is no room for error."

A player who has probably improved as much as any on the Auburn defense since the start of preseason practice, Thorpe has received a huge amount of attention from the coaching staff to get him up to speed as soon as possible.

"I feel like I have improved enough to be out there playing, but every day I feel like I need to improve more," the soft-spoken freshman says.

Learning the speed of the game and adjusting to the strength of the arms the quarterbacks have are two aspects of playing corner in college that Thorpe has been focused on mastering. "When I see the quarterbacks throwing the ball I need to get better reacting to it," he says. "I break on it, but sometimes I may be hesitant because I am not sure where they are throwing."

Rhoads says the more time Thorpe spends on the field in game situations, the better he will become at defending passes. "Neiko is definitely making progress," the coach notes.

Thorpe's next opportunity for game experience is Saturday at 6 p.m. at Davis Wade Stadium in a nationally televised contest vs. Mississippi State on ESPN2.

"I am looking forward to playing again this week," says Thorpe, who adds that the more he plays the more comfortable he becomes with his role in Auburn's defensive system.

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