Coleman Ready To Get Season Started

Senior Antonio Coleman talks about preparing for his final season opener at Auburn and the depth on the defensive line.

Auburn, Ala.--For Antonio Coleman this Saturday is the beginning of the end to his football career at Auburn. With 102 career tackles, 30 tackles for losses, and 14 ½ sacks, the Mobile native has already established himself as one of the top defensive linemen in Auburn history.

This season is his chance to show that he belongs in an elite group of players. A preseason All-American and All-SEC selection by several publications, Coleman is one of the more experienced players back for an Auburn defense looking to put the Tigers back on track in 2009. Despite playing in 37 career games with 19 starts Coleman said he still gets pumped up about opening day.

"It's crazy because I'm ready to play right now," Coleman said about Saturday‘s opener against Louisiana Tech. "It will be one less game for me at Jordan-Hare. My blood is bubbling. I'm just ready to get out there and play. I think all the guys are excited and the coaches are excited. We're just ready to get out there Saturday and have fun."

Coleman along with fellow defensive end Michael Goggans and defensive tackles Jake Ricks, Mike Blanc and Zach Clayton all have a great deal of experience, which is a big boost for the defensive front. Behind that group though is a very raw bunch with two freshmen and a junior college transfer all listed as second-team performers. Coleman said it's the job of the older guys to make sure everyone is ready to go Saturday night.

"Me and Goggans started last year," Coleman said. "Jake Ricks played a lot for us and Mike Blanc. We all have experience up front with the starters. The guys behind like Nosa (Nosa Eguae) and Dee (Dee Ford) and Derrick Lykes and Nick Fairley, it's going to be their first time in a big game with 90,000 fans. They're going to be nervous, but we just have to keep them calm and tell them to fly around and have fun."

While Lykes and Fairley are both first-year guys, they are a redshirt freshman and junior college transfer respectively. On the outside Eguae and Ford are both true freshman that Auburn will depend on heavily to provide depth early in their first season. Coleman said both players have shown him some good things since they've been on campus.

"Nosa has come a long way," Coleman said. "Just during summer workouts and mini-camps I could tell he was going to be able to help us. Dee still has a ways to go, but both of those guys are going to have to help us. They are young and they're probably going to be nervous Saturday, but we've got to find a way to keep them calm. If they know what to do and how to do it then they'll be fine."

In addition to getting help from the pair of freshmen, Auburn will also depend on both Fairley and Clayton to bounce outside at times to play some defensive end. It's something that Clayton did a good bit in 2008 while Fairley was known more as an end until arriving in Auburn this summer.

"It helps us out a lot with our depth problems," Coleman said. "It's good to know that Nick or Zach could go to defensive end. It's good to know they are versatile."

While Saturday night's 6 p.m. kickoff will be Coleman's final season opener at Auburn, it will be the first for Gene Chizik and his staff on the Plains. One coach though has been where the players are this week preparing to play in the same arena. Defensive line Coach Tracy Rocker is perhaps Auburn's best-ever defensive player and is back coaching the Tigers in 2009.

Having a legend coaching you can sometimes be a burden to carry, but Coleman said Rocker doesn't lean on those things at all and tries to stay away from talking about himself as a player. Like everyone though the feeling of starting a new season and getting back to a place that feels like home is coming to the surface with Rocker and Coleman said they could see it when they got back to work this week.

"On Sunday Coach Rock was out flying around and smiling and joking around with the players," Coleman said. "You could tell he was happy and pumped about us going out there Saturday to play.

"I can see how big it is for him because he played here and he did the things we're trying to do right now," he added. "He had all the accolades, but it doesn't matter. He just wants us to go out there and play. It's all about us and he's trying to put us in the best position he can for us to go out there and win on Saturday."

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