July 20, 2013
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - As Auburn's football team spiraled downward last season, the defensive line received frequent criticism. Senior defensive tackle said Friday that it was deserved.
"No doubt," Whitaker said. "We should have. We should have. I actually talked to the defensive line last night. We are going to put it on us, especially on defense. If you have a chance at any level of football, your defensive line has to be your anchor. I felt like we weren't. We know it's going to be a lot better."
Whitaker said he feels a different vibe, a different mindset in Auburn's football program.
"You look at that and the deal that comes into it is accountability. This year, I think everybody is going into it holding each other accountable. I feel like last year we didn't do that great as a group. holding each other accountable. I think the leadership is where it needs to be, and it's going to continue to grow.
"To a man, each individual on this D-line, our expectation is bigger than Coach (Rodney) Garner's or anybody else's out there. We know we are going to get the job done. That's why we are working hard. We are grinding. We really don't care what people think. Let's play ball, let's get physical, let's get nasty. We're going to be all right."
Garrett sees more focus on defense
Junior Justin Garrett, the defensive star of spring practice at the Star position in coordinator Ellis Johnson's scheme, says he and his teammates are determined that 2013 will, as first-year head coach Gus Malzahn preaches, a new day.
"A lot of people are a lot more focused and paying attention to details," Garrett said. "The freshmen are buying in to the system. Nobody wants to go 3-9 again. Nobody wants that feeling again to be sitting home in December and watching everybody else play. Everybody has really been tuning in to what's been going on and really putting in extra work every day."
Playing for each other
With seniors at vying for playing time at every position, Auburn defensive linemen say they are no longer working to be noticed but working for each other. At least six Auburn defensive players were part of the 2010 national championship team.
"I'm running to the ball because of him, the guy next to me," Whitaker said. "We've been through the highs and lows since we've been here. It takes balling to a whole different level because you want that accomplishment together. The guys that were here when we hoisted that trophy, we understand hey, man, you appreciate winning. You appreciate the grind. As much as that year was magical, we remember the grind more than the games."
Marshall makes an impression
Junior college transfer quarterback Nick Marshall has made a big impression on Garret in players-only practices called captain's practices.
"He has an arm," Marshall said. "I'll put it like that. He's made some great passes out there and is looking very good out there at quarterback."
Harrell on the comeback trail
Sophomore defensive end Keymiya Harrell, who missed spring practice with a knee injury, is working hard to come back.
"He's up at 5 every morning, putting the work in, getting his knee right," Eguae said. "You can definitely see the progress. He's out there running sprints already. I can't wait for him to come back."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: