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Auburn walk-on receiver Smith backs up boast


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AUBURN, Ala. -- Rodgeriqus Smith walked up to fellow Auburn receiver Courtney Taylor before fall camp bursting with confidence.

"Man, I'm going to start," he pronounced. :)

It was a bold statement for a walk-on who had to audition just to make the team two years ago. But true to his word, Smith is a starting receiver going into the fourth-ranked Tigers' opener against Washington State.

"I say to myself everyday, 'Man, is this really happening?"' Smith said.

Smith only got a couple of Division I-AA scholarship offers -- and a third in track -- coming out of high school. He came to Auburn with best friend and receiver signee James Swinton, and tried out with other uninvited walk-ons on the first day of classes in 2004. He caught offensive coordinator Al Borges' eye with a diving catch early, and is still grabbing attention and catches in practice.

"Rod Smith has really been a great, great surprise," Borges said. "He's played well this entire camp."

Coach Tommy Tuberville said Smith won the starting job "because of how he's practiced, how he's played and how he knows the offense."

Smith also had the benefit of playing for a team that lost its top three receivers from last season. He caught passes in four of the first five games as a redshirt freshman.

"I never doubted myself coming out of high school," Smith said. "I always thought I was a [Division I-A] caliber player. I always felt like I could come to a D-1 school and compete, whether it was Auburn or another D-1 school."

When did Taylor first notice Smith's potential?

"The first time I saw him playing basketball," he said. "I feel like he's a heck of an athlete. That's when I knew that he was going to be something special."

Smith's next goal: Get put on scholarship.

"That's every walk-on's dream," he said.

Defense gets good Marks

The coaches let Sen'Derrick Marks know of his ascension to No. 1 at defensive tackle in the middle of a recent practice.

"They said, 'Get in.' I just got in," the redshirt freshman said. "And I see my name first on the depth chart. It was a big shock. But if they think I can do it, I'm ready for it."

Marks isn't a lock at starter. Sophomore Pat Sims is still battling for the job.

"It's back and forth right now between them," defensive line coach Don Dunn said.

Sims got a setback when he had to have a fingernail removed Monday because of an injury. Dunn said both would see considerable playing time.

"Pat is more physical. Sen'Derrick is probably the better athlete," he said.

Green learns limits

Backup offensive guard Tyronne Green got quite a scare during fall camp, spending several days in the hospital with severe dehydration.

"I ended up having a fever. I was real dehydrated," Green said. "I guess with those symptoms a couple of more things came along and kind of took over my whole body. It was kind of shutting down on me."

He said he had been feeling ill, but still pushed through both two-a-day sessions. After the second, he was catching a ride back to the football complex from practice when he started getting painful stomach cramps.

The trainers called an ambulance after fluids didn't help.

"If I didn't go to the emergency room that night to get the I.V.'s, my kidneys probably almost would have failed on me," Green said. "I was just so dehydrated."


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