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Tough learning curve at Auburn

DKW 86

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IF CTT wins the first three games with this line up...I think we will win the SEC and maybe even the BCS. If you can win with TRUE FR playing this soon. You are truly deep and truly talented. While some maybe seeing a gamble here by CTT, I see a huge building block for the future. If we have to give up a game (LSU) to make ourselves MUSCH better down the road, then so be it.

Tough learning curve at Auburn

Monday, August 14, 2006


Times Sports Staff pmarsh9485@msn.com

Pair of freshmen working hard to master defense

AUBURN - For Auburn freshmen Zach Etheridge and Craig Stevens, there is so much to do and so little time.

Etheridge, a safety from Charles Henderson High in Troy, and Stevens, a linebacker from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, became pals shortly after arriving on the Auburn campus. They are roommates at Sewell Hall.

They find themselves in positions neither expected, urgently trying to unravel the complexities of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp's schemes. They could be called on to play for a top 10 team in the season opener against Washington State on Sept. 2.

Etheridge came as a cornerback and was moved Friday to safety, where he is No. 2 behind redshirt freshman Aairon Savage. :blink: Stevens is No. 2 behind Will Herring at strongside linebacker. :blink:

"We know the situation we are in, so we try to study hard every night," Etheridge said. "He's helping me out a lot. I just have to learn more about the position. It's a lot different, but I'm going to get it."

Stevens says both need all the help they can get. Muschamp's schemes can be challenging even for veteran players.

"It's so hard," Stevens said. "They've been running this since spring, and some people that were here then still don't have it down pat. It's hard to pick it up as quick as I have to pick it up."

Both welcome their opportunities, but neither expected it to be this way.

Etheridge got the word from Muschamp that he was moving after sophomore Lorenzo Ferguson's shoulder popped out of place for the third time in preseason practice. The door was opened for Stevens after senior Kevin Sears and redshirt freshman Tray Blackmon were suspended and sophomore Steve Gandy was lost indefinitely after suffering complications from a bruised quadricep.

Etheridge, barring a change of plans, will play in the season opener.

"He's adjusting, trying to learn what to do and how to do it," Muschamp said. "He's a bright kid and he's going to help us this year at that position."

Linebackers coach James Willis says Stevens has those same qualities.

"He's developing every day," Willis said. "He doesn't come out and make the same mistakes day after day. Anytime you get that from a freshman, that's pretty good."

Etheridge and Stevens are among a handful of true freshmen challenging for playing time. Wide receiver Tim Hawthorne, nose guard Mike Blanc and, tight end Michael Goggans are pushing for attention. Running back Ben Tate, who graduated early from high school and participated in spring practice, is also on the verge of earning playing time. With the opener almost three weeks away, others could still get into the picture.

When Blanc arrived from Pompano Beach, Fla., it was uncertain whether he would stay on defense or move to offense. It's uncertain no longer. With junior Tez Doolittle out for most of the past week with an Achilles injury, Blanc is backing up senior nose guard Josh Thompson.

"When I signed, they gave me the option to play offense or defense," Blanc said. "I knew after they saw my defensive ability and my speed they were going to keep me on defense."

But he didn't expect so much so fast.

"I was just planning to work hard and make a name for myself," Blanc said. "I never expected to be second team. The coach (Don Dunn) says I'm doing real well and progressing a lot.

"He said the person in front of me, Tez, is basically giving me his spot."

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