Coleman Trying to Step Up His Leadership Role

Senior defensive end Antonio Coleman talks about his meeting with Coach Gene Chizik and increasing his leadership role on the defense.

Auburn, Ala.--When he was hired as Auburn's head coach, Gene Chizik said he had an open door policy for his players. Following last week's 44-23 loss at Arkansas, senior defensive end Antonio Coleman decided to take advantage of that access.

One of Auburn's leaders and a player who passed up the chance to try to play in the NFL to return for his senior year, Coleman said his meeting with Chizik went great as they discussed some of the problems he's seen on defense and throughout the team this season.

"It went great," Coleman said. "We talked about the defense. He's a very understanding guy. It was nothing serious. I just chatted with him about some small things that helped us lose and some of the things we need to correct."

There are plenty of corrections that need to be made on defense, but Coleman said many of the problems have come from small mistakes throughout the unit. He said as much as anything the blame for last week goes directly to the players who weren't ready to play in his opinion, something he wants to make sure doesn't happen again.

"You could tell in practice last week that we weren't focused," Coleman said. "That's a big part to us losing that game. We weren't focused and it showed. Coach Chizik called it out on Thursday. He called it out I felt like I needed to talk to him and let him know that I'm going to be the guy that makes sure we're focused week in and week out. We don't want to go through that again.

"I'm going to be in their face," Coleman added. "Anything I can do to help this team win. I didn't come back to have another season like I had last year. I came back for a reason. That's to play football because I love Auburn."

Chances are Coleman hasn't helped himself in the eyes of NFL scouts this season with just 19 tackles and two and a half sacks in six games. To be fair, Coleman has played the last three weeks with his wrist in a cast, something that has made it tough for him to be successful at defensive end.

While his numbers aren't great, that's not a concern for the Mobile native. He said right now he's willing to do anything and everything he can to make sure this team gets back on the winning track and stays there.

"Anything you need me to do, I'll do it because I'm a team player and I love playing football here," Coleman said. "The first five games were great. We were flying around and having fun. The sixth game was a tough loss. We just weren't prepared. I went up and talked about where our mindset was and how I thought the guys on the team reacted to the loss. I think it opened their eyes. We're a much better football team learning from that loss."

After having the chance to sit down and talk with Chizik, Coleman said that's one of the things he likes about the first-year head coach and his approach to his team.

"It's real helpful because he's real understanding," Coleman said of the meeting. "That's one of the reasons I came back because I thought he was a great coach and an Auburn guy. Any problems I have I go to him. We talked yesterday about the defense and all the things we need to correct."

That correcting began on Tuesday as the Tigers had a very physical practice complete with 11-on-11 work with the offense and defense facing off. With very little depth to work with that's something that this team hasn't had the luxury of doing much of since early in fall camp. With Kentucky coming to town on Saturday Coleman said the week is off to a very good start in his opinion.

"It was a much better practice," Coleman said of Tuesday night‘s workout. "Coach Chizik said it was a great practice. We still have a lot of work to do, but we got out there and practiced like an Auburn football team is supposed to practice."

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