By Matt Nestor
Last season, many came into the season looking at Auburn as a potential sleeper. They were big on both lines and had an all-conference junior in defensive lineman Kenny Coleman.
But things didn’t work out, and the Knights didn’t win a game. But the rough season has not hurt their focus, and they are ready to come out and prove that everyone had it right going into last season.
“My expectations are always going to be high, and I tell these young men to always set their expectations high. So the sky is the limit for us,” Head Coach Billy Cook said. “Last year showed us we can’t win with individuals. We had a couple of guys that thought we wanted to lean on them. I think this group right here is a more cohesive group.”
The Knights are returning a very talented group as well. In addition to Coleman, linebackers Demarshay Martin, who led the team in interceptions last year, and Jarod Kimble will help lead the defense, while running backs Justin Graves and Bruce Whitaker will lead the offense.
The Knights will hang their hat on their defense, however, and Cook thinks the unit is ready for the challenge.
“They’ve been flying around, and that’s what you need on defense,” Cook said. “A bunch of hungry, crazed dogs. They’re wearing those black shirts, and it’s for a reason now.”
Coleman will be the key. He is one of few returning first-team all-conference players, and he will command double teams on almost every play.
“He’s going to eat up two guys,” Cook said of the lineman. “There’s no way anyone in the conference is going to take him one-on-one.”
More than anything, Cook said he is ready for his team to get after another team. And he thinks that if they don’t beat themselves, everything else should take care of itself.
“It’s hard to tell what you’ve got until you get a different colored jersey in front of your face,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve been trying to tell my coaches and the players is when you come out here you have to execute. I want to see my guys flying around and having fun.”
From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue