Coleman Taking On Leadership Role For AU

Senior defensive end Antonio Coleman talks spring football and his role as a leader for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--This spring has been one of change for senior defensive end Antonio Coleman. Always a leader because of the way he played and the example he set on the field, Coleman has seen his leadership duties pushed to the max now that he's the veteran of the defense for the Tigers.

With inexperienced players dotting the depth chart at just about every position, Coleman is one of the guys singled out by position coach Tracy Rocker to step up in a leadership role. While he says it's not his strong suit, Coleman notes it's something he's taking very seriously as the Tigers go through spring practice.

"Everyone looks to me to be the leader of the defense," Coleman says. "I think I need to step it up a little bit more. I'm learning because as a leader I've always showed my leadership by action, getting out there and playing hard. I've got to be more vocal. I'm beginning to do that."

Put in that position by Rocker, Coleman says it's an honor to have that bestowed on him by one of the best defensive players in Auburn history. Well aware of what his coach accomplished in college, Coleman says being able to be coached by Rocker as a senior is something he plans to take full advantage of after deciding to return for one more year of college football.

"I think it's an honor because of all of the awards he won here at Auburn," Coleman says. "Just the techniques he's teaching us are a lot different. They should be beneficial to us on the field. There are a lot of drills that we do that we see while we're scrimmaging against the offense. He's a great coach and brings a lot to the table. He wants us to be physical. That's the first word that comes out of his mouth every day. I like that."

Coleman is taking over the reigns up front with senior Tez Doolittle and junior Sen'Derrick Marks gone from last season. With fellow starter Michael Goggans back on the strong side as well as top back up Antoine Carter and redshirt freshman Cameron Henderson, the Tigers have some solid backups at the end position and inside with more coming from the young crowd said Coleman.

"A lot of the guys are responding," Coleman says. "That's what Coach Rocker wants. Hot Boy (Carter) has moved behind Goggans. He was behind me. Now you have Cam behind me. It's just an ongoing process. The young guys haven't seen the speed of the SEC that they'll see when the play in a game. Cameron is coming along, but he's still got a long way to go as do Derrick Lykes and Jomarcus Savage. I think they're getting better and better every day and that's what we need out of them."

Last season Coleman and the Auburn defense practiced against an offense that was considered to be up-tempo and had the ability to be multi-dimensional. Things didn't turn out that way in 2008, but the Mobile native says this time around he sees a different offensive attack from new coordinator Gus Malzahn.

"They are running the ball a lot more instead of going five-wide every time," Coleman says. "That's a big difference. Their first priority is to run. That's the biggest difference I have seen, that and the two-backs and split backs with the speed sweep. That's different."

The offense isn't the only thing different as coordinator Ted Roof has brought some changes with him to Auburn's defense for spring practice. While the scheme will essentially be the same with the Tigers using a base 4-3 defense and also employing a 3-4 look at times, Coleman says things are a little different, but the defense is adjusting every day and making improvements. He says that's the goal every day between now and the end of spring practice.

"It's a big adjustment in the plays that we run and some of the fits we take," Coleman notes. "We were facing that up-tempo pace last year from Coach (Tony) Franklin, but I think it's a little faster this year. I think Coach (Gene) Chizik is slowing it down a little bit because it has only been a couple of days and we're still out there trying to learn what to do with our defensive coordinator and the whole defensive staff. We're getting the hang of it and I think we're getting better every day we practice."

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