Clayton Working at Two DL Spots

An Auburn football report features comments from defensive lineman Zach Clayton.

Auburn, Ala.--One of the more experienced players the 2009 Auburn football Tigers will be counting on this season is junior Zach Clayton, who will try to help fill the holes left by 2008 defensive linemen Sen'Derrick Marks and Tez Doolittle.

In Auburn's first major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday, Clayton stepped up and made several impressive plays, including a pair of quarterback sacks.

"The scrimmage went pretty good," the former Opelika High standout says. "I did fairly well keeping up with the tempo and bouncing back after being blowed (winded) a little bit."

With the offense running a fast-paced, no-huddle style this spring under new coordinator Gus Malzahn, the defense had trouble at times in the scrimmage getting lined up quickly enough and set before the snap. The coaches had to step in and call timeouts to let the defense get properly aligned. Clayton notes the defense has work to do to adjust to what the offense is doing.

"I feel like we did some good things on defense in the scrimmage," the defensive lineman says. "We made some big plays when we needed to make them, but we have a long way to go. We definitely have to keep the tempo up all of the time instead of being on a rollercoaster at times."

Clayton has rotated between tackle and end at Auburn, but this year he is splitting his time between noseguard and tackle. "We have a three-man rotation between me, Mike Blanc and Jake Ricks at tackle and nose," he points out.

Does Clayton prefer one position over the other? "I like them both equally," he says. "Both are similar and you get a double-team at both positions."

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has challenged Clayton and the others on the defensive front to step up and become team leaders this spring. One of the young defensive backs, Neiko Thorpe, says he noticed in the scrimmage that Clayton and the other defensive linemen were doing that.

"Something that stood out to me is that the front four stepped up with some big plays and did a good job of leadership by keeping the defense excited," Thorpe says. "That was good to see."

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