Doolittle, Marks Battle Dogs, Injuries

Senior Tez Doolittle and junior Sen'Derrick Marks talk about their team's battle vs. the Georgia Bulldogs.

Auburn, Ala.--Tez Doolittle walked off the turf at Jordan-Hare Stadium the final time as a player Saturday after Auburn's 17-13 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs. It also may have been the final home game as an Auburn Tiger for Sen'Derrick Marks.

A junior who has been a stalwart on the defensive line as an end and tackle for the Tigers, Marks has been projected as a possible early NFL draft choice if he decides for forego his senior year and enter the draft.

Marks has some time to make that decision. However, for Doolittle his college career is rapidly winding down with a November 29 regular season finale against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. An upset by the Tigers in two weeks could extend Doolittle's Auburn career by a bowl game appearance.

Sen'Derrick Marks

The roads traveled by Marks and Doolittle to Saturday's game against Georgia are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Doolittle has battled injury issues that kept him from seeing much action early in his career with limited participation in only 19 games going into the current season. The Opelika High School product, who signed with Auburn way back in 2003, was granted a medical hardship giving him an extra season in 2008. He missed the entire 2007 campaign with a Achilles injury and worked extremely hard in his rehabilitation to get back on the field.

Doolittle earned his first career start against Tennessee this year and lined up as noseguard four straight games next to Marks at tackle. That streak ended when Doolittle strained a groin and wasn't able to start against Ole Miss. Both sat out against Tennessee-Martin in an effort to be ready for Georgia the following week.

Marks, a preseason All-American, said after Saturday's loss to Georgia that he is about 85 to 90 percent healthy while playing on two bad ankles.

Doolittle also noted he's not full speed. "We're nicked, bruised and banged up, but when it's time to go, we have to go," he said.

Marks and Doolittle agreed the week out of action helped get them ready for the Bulldogs, who were ranked number one in the nation early this season before losing two games. Auburn was fighting for an opportunity at a winning season and a bowl game after going into the Georgia game at 5-5.

"I got a little rest and tried to come out strong," Doolittle said.

Marks admitted that while he's able to play, but not to the best of his ability. Both linemen said a bye week before the Alabama game should get them nearly 100 percent for the Crimson Tide.

Doolittle may have had the best game of his career by blocking a field goal attempt on Georgia's first series of the game and batted down a pass later in the contest. He also had two tackles, resulting in three yards in losses.

"They had an extra man on the left side on the field goal try," he said. "I came out hard and low," Doolittle recalled, and added with a laugh, "I got about a three-inch vertical jump and blocked it."

The Tigers probably played as complete a game as they have during this disappointing season after being gashed the first quarter by Bulldog running back Knowshon Moreno. The sophomore had 89 yards rushing in the first quarter, but was slowed enough to pick up only 45 yards the final three quarters to finish with 131 yards on 22 carries.

"You have gang tackle Moreno and we weren't doing that in the first quarter," Doolittle said. "We were getting out of or lanes and not reading our keys."

Marks said, "We made some adjustments and started doing what we were suppose to be doing. A lot of times we would get a lick on him, but he doesn't go down easily. He's a tough runner and everyone knew that going into the game."

Asked if the Auburn defense may be regaining some of its early-season swagger when it dominated and limited opponents with a nation's best on third-down conversion percentage. "It feels that way sometimes," Marks said. "But were still not doing like we were early in the season. It's about getting back on track and everybody getting on board."

Marks added he doesn't sense a feeling that bad things are going to happen to the Tigers this season. "I don't, but some of the guys may," he said. "The coaches may be trying to keep it from going that way. When we come to the sidelines they tell us that play is over with, like a missed field goal, and that the defense needs to get the ball back.

"I'm not frustrated," Marks noted. "There may be a couple of guys like that, but we have a lot of focus on our mental toughness to go out and do our job."

Doolittle said he believes additional time off before the Alabama game will increase Auburn's opportunities for an upset against the Crimson Tide. "Anytime you have time off in the SEC, it's a great help. We'll be able to get a little rest, get back on our feet, watch plenty of film and see what's going on with our opponent."

Marks knows what is at stake against Alabama. "You can go out with a real good feeling by winning that game," he said. "It would make it so much better with them being number one. There's going to be a lot riding on that game and a lot of pride in that game.

"This is like an ego game," he added. "It's about how you feel in your heart about going out to play. It means a lot if you just beat Alabama. They are our in-state rival, but it would mean a whole lot more when they are the number one team in the nation. We can really mess up their season by going in and getting the job done."

As for Doolittle, he said about his final home game on Saturday, "I'm going to miss playing in Jordan-Hare Stadium. I've had a great time. The last time playing here is really tough. But life goes on."

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