At what he calls "the toughest position on the field," talent alone is worthless without the effort.
"You want a guy to lay it on the line every down," Rocker says. "That's the number one goal."
The 1988 Outland and Lombardi Award winners his senior year at Auburn takes over as coach of the entire defensive line. With spring practice beginning on March 24, Rocker hopes to find at least eight players he can count on for effort every play.
"You would like to have a true eight and, at a max, 10," he explains. "You would like to have a true eight and the 10 is in case injury or something happens in the season. Certain guys peak early and wear down as the season goes on and all of a sudden it's the ninth or 10th guy. If he's got a clue as to what's going on, he steps in. You would like to have that happen. I would like to have a true eight and two more."
A two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC player at Auburn, Rocker knows effort when he sees it, and that's what he's looking for when recruiting defensive linemen.
"How bad to you really want to play this game? That's what you're really trying to find out," he says of his recruiting mentality. "Due to the fact now that we tend to look at a ratings system saying he's a two-star or three-star, well nothing can really tell you how bad a kid really wants to play inside. I have to try to eliminate, ‘Well they're saying he's rated this and this.' A lot of times, ‘Does he really want to play?' Because football is really hard, and two, ‘Can he play hurt?' And three, ‘What is he trying to do?' Is he just trying to say, ‘I came here and I went to Auburn?' Or is he trying to be special and make Auburn special? Those are things you're trying to look for.
"Now we're going off a rating system," Rocker continues, "but I'm more interested in, ‘Do you really want to play and where do you want this game to carry you?' Not just here but in the future. There are a lot of great players that came here that weren't even rated. That's what we're dealing with now. Then you have to break the ‘Everybody thinks you ought to have instant success when you step out there.' It's not easy to play defensive line. It's a premium position. It's probably the toughest position on the field. I just think sometimes kids have a misconception about that position. It's a tough position. It's a man's man game down there."
Rocker played on Pat Dye teams that were known for their toughness on both sides of the ball and won SEC Championships his junior and senior years. The Tigers were the most physical team in the league in a physical era of football, and Rocker hopes to continue that tradition.
"When you play defensive line, you're going to get hurt and you're going to have to play hurt," he explains. "The only time you don't play hurt is when it's things that you can't control–blood and bones. Those are things that you can't control. You're going to be nicked up and banged up a little bit. If you can fight through that you'll be okay.
"I'll tell you one thing," he adds. "There is no excuse for effort. You can have all of the tools in the world, but if you aren't going to put forth the effort you're really no interest to us. It's about effort here. It's about effort, playing hard and laying it down. That's what this school is built on. Auburn has always been tough, because it's Auburn. I don't see it any other way. That's the way we want not only defensive linemen to be, I think every position on the field, to be the same way. We are Auburn and we've got something to stand for. We've got effort. Win or lose, one thing you're not going to question is effort. That's the goal."