Auburn Looking For Leaders On Defense

Auburn is hoping to find some leadership on defense in spring practice.

Auburn, Ala.--With players such as Chris Evans, Tez Doolittle, Sen'Derrick Marks and Jerraud Powers gone from last year's defense, one of the goals in the spring is to find the next crop of players willing to step up and take over a leadership role. One of the players that is being called upon to do just that is senior defensive tackle Jake Ricks.

As one of the veterans on the team along with fellow defensive lineman Antonio Coleman, Ricks says he's making a concerted effort to become more vocal to help the younger players out as well as make the defense better.

"This is my senior year," Ricks says. "These past couple of years I feel like I haven't done anything for real because I have been playing behind Sen'Derrick. That's the mindset I have taken now that I'm a senior. It's my last year and it could be my last chance ever playing football. I have to step up.

"I feel responsible simply because I'm a senior," he adds. "I learned from Josh Thompson and Tez and all those guys. It's time for me to step up and be a leader."

It will take more than one though and another senior that is attempting to step into that role is cornerback Walter McFadden. One of the most experience players returning on Auburn's defense, McFadden came into his own last season as a full-time starter for the Tigers.

Now that he's one of the old guys in the secondary along with fellow senior Aairon Savage, McFadden says while he still counts on advice himself, he's trying to do a better job of being there for the younger guys on defense while also learning a new system under coordinator Ted Roof.

"It's different," McFadden says. "I still kind of want somebody to look up to. I'll call Jerraud or Pat Lee and I'm still asking them for their advice. It's a little bit different because the younger guys like T Bell (T'Sharvan Bell) and Harry Adams and even Neiko (Neiko Thorpe) who's playing a lot right now, they're all asking me. I tell them to let me get it taken care of first and then I can get them going. It's different, but I'm ready for the challenge."

While Ricks and McFadden are two of the guys trying to move into a leadership role, one of the players that had already started doing that job last season despite being just a sophomore was middle linebacker Josh Bynes. Now a year older, he says that it's something that is just expected when you play that position and it's a role he relishes.

"As a middle linebacker in this league we have to be a leader," Bynes says. "We have to want to take control of the defense. We have to get everybody lined up left and right. As a middle linebacker you have to step up and be that leader even if you're not ready. You have to be that leader and be more vocal. If you're confident in what you're saying then everybody will be confident in you."

As one of the leaders on the defense, Bynes says he doesn't have a problem with the changes made by the new coaching staff for the team. Trying to establish boundaries for the development of the team and the program, the Tigers now have certain guidelines they must follow in and around the athletic complex. They are rules all welcome by Bynes and things he says help the team realize they are there to get the job done.

"It helps us understand that when we come in this building anything we have in the streets stays in the streets," Bynes says. "When we come in this building it's about Auburn football, athletics and academics. We come in here we're strictly about business. No hats. No jewelry. When you're in the meeting you don't have your phone out or your pants hanging. We don't need all that. When you come in this building it's straight business. You come here with your mind focused on the day's work."

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