Clayton Making Progress at Tackle

Auburn's Zach Clayton talks about his play so far in the 2008 season and about taking on Mississippi State this weekend.

Auburn, Ala.--One of Auburn's most improved defenders this season has been sophomore defensive tackle Zach Clayton. Known almost as much for his prowess throwing the discus and shot put on the track as his football talent, Clayton has come on strong for the Tigers so far in 2008 and he says he feels like it's just the tip of the iceberg.

"I feel like things are going real well," Clayton tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I'm getting in there and getting a taste for it. I feel like I'm getting better each game."

So far in two games, Clayton has racked up three tackles with all three coming for a loss. He's also added one sack with it coming last Saturday against Southern Miss. Compare those to just eight tackles and a half a tackle for a loss in 10 games played last year and you can see just how much Clayton has come on this season.

Clayton points out that the main reason for his improvement has been the use of his hands at the point of attack. "I think so without a doubt," he says. "I would say my hand fit has gotten better. It still needs to come a ways. As far as the pass rush it helped me out in the Southern Miss game. It's coming along."

Part of a defense that has allowed just 13 points in two games, Clayton says that right now the defense is playing loose under first-year coordinator Paul Rhoads and he credits that along with young players like himself stepping up their game as two of the biggest reasons for success so far.

"It's a lot of fun," Clayton says. "Everybody is getting some snaps. Everybody is getting experience. We've come a long way and I think we'll go far."

This weekend Auburn opens SEC play on the road at Mississippi State against a Bulldog offense that features one of the best big backs in the country in Anthony Dixon. Dixon and the MSU offense will be difficult for the Tigers to contain, but Clayton says that's something he and his teammates thrive on.

"It's a big challenge, but every game is a challenge," he says. "We're kind of looking forward to getting back to straight-ahead running and facing a team that huddles. They are a power team. We'll have to get ready for their line. They've got a good offensive line. We'll try to get a push and see how it goes."

Zach Clayton

Auburn will be looking to get back on the winning track against Mississippi State this weekend after dropping a 19-14 decision to the Bulldogs last September at Jordan-Hare Stadium when the Tigers turned the ball over five times. Clayton notes that the disappointment of that game still lingers and is motivation.

"I think the thing that sticks out to me was that we came into the game and played okay, but we just didn't hold our own like we should have," Clayton recalls. "This year I think we'll be ready to play.

"Everybody comes together on the road," he adds. "You've got plenty of time to hang out with it being a night game. We'll have plenty of time to concentrate and get our minds right and focus on the game."

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