July 24, 2008

Help wanted in Auburn's secondary

Auburn returns several talented and experienced players in its secondary. Just one problem: There aren't enough of them.

When fall practice begins Saturday, Aug. 2, defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads will be on the hunt for at least one more safety and cornerback. And he'll likely be turning to a true freshman to fill those roles.

"We're probably the thinnest group on the defense, which concerns me," said Rhoads. "The cornerback position is the better of the two. We have three who I consider real quality corners. I think we have to find a couple of incoming players to help, primarily at safety.

"Who that is, the next six weeks will determine."

The true freshmen candidates at safety include Christian Thompson, Marcus Jemison and DeRon Furr, who moved to defense after playing quarterback in the spring.

At corner, Rhoads will look at D'Antoine Hood, Harry Adams and Neiko Lipscomb. T'Sharvan Bell will miss two-a-days with a broken foot and is a likely redshirt.

Drew Cole will have an opportunity to earn playing time at both positions.

"Drew is a corner that could play safety," said Rhoads. "He's very smart, which I like, and he's going to be in the best shape of the group because he's been here the longest. That alone will give him a little bit of a leg up."

Rhoads said the freshmen will have to overcome several obstacles to earn playing time this season.

"The biggest physical adjustment is the speed," said Rhoads. "They're used to certain guys being fast but everybody is fast. The second biggest adjustment is the first time that physical contact is made with an upper classman and they realize there's a whole lot more muscle on these guys than the ones they have been hitting.

"The biggest obstacle they have to overcome is the learning. We'll be more complicated, that's just a fact. They've got to learn that. Freshmen also always hit a wall. Some hit it earlier than others. Some hit it just briefly and move on. The ones that can hit it later and just briefly and can move on are probably going to be the ones that play."

While Rhoads will be looking for freshmen to help fill out the two-deep, he feels great about Auburn's returning veterans, especially at the cornerback position. The Tigers return starter Jerraud Powers on one side while converted safety Aairon Savage and talented junior Walter McFadden are battling for the starting position on the other.

Powers started all 13 games last season, finishing fourth on the team with 63 tackles and tied for the team lead with four interceptions.

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