While Auburn’s run to the national title game last season was spurred by the team’s innovative offense and overwhelming rushing attack, the Tigers’ defense was led by defensive tackle Gabe Wright. Wright proved to be one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the nation, but his role is expected to expand this fall.
Wright will start the season at defensive tackle, but he’ll also be expected to receive repetitions at defensive end.
Wright was forced to play defensive end during spring practice due to injuries along the defensive line, and the Tigers’ coaching staff came away impressed with his play.
“(Auburn defensive line coach Rodney Gardner) actually wanted to put me in last year, but he just stated I wasn’t mentally ready,” Wright told al.com’s Brandon Marcello. “I respect and I don’t second-guess his decision. If I’m called upon, I will answer the call. There’s no doubt about that. It just shows his confidence in me.”
Wright also wasn’t physically ready to play defensive end last year. He’s down to 290 pounds with enough the athleticism to set the edge and rush the passer.
“I’ve been wanting to drop down body weight since I’ve been here — and body fat — which has been done,” Wright said.
Wright’s versatility will provide insurance along the Tigers’ defensive line after losing Dee Ford to the NFL and Carl Lawson to a potential season-ending ACL injury. Wright’s ability to provide depth at defensive end also allows the ultra-talented Montravius Adams to gain more repetitions at defensive tackle.
While Wright remains one of the best interior defenders in college football, his biggest contribution this season may be his ability to play defensive end until Lawson is fully healthy or one of the Tigers’ young pass rushers are ready to take over the spot.
As if this day wasn’t busy enough, Ole Miss announced late Monday evening star-crossed offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil‘s suspension has been capped at seven games, meaning he’ll miss Saturday’s trip to Memphis but return in time for Texas A&M visit to The Grove on Oct. 24.
From the university:
The University initially withheld Tunsil from competition at the start of the season as both the NCAA and the University examined several alleged improper benefits. During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle. In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles. He later corrected his account and since apologized.
As part of his reinstatement conditions, the NCAA imposed a seven-game suspension, ordered Tunsil to pay the value of the extra benefits to a charity, perform community service, and he will also make the vehicle down payment.
Said Tunsil: “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.”
The news is, obviously, great for Tunsil and head coach Hugh Freeze personally, as well as the entire Ole Miss football program. It’s also a nice plus for NFL scouts, as it means Tunsil’s first live action of 2015 will come against possible future No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett.
Hope he’s been practicing.
Say it ain’t so, Steve.
According to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated Monday evening, Steve Spurrier is set to retire.
Spurrier, 70, is a legend the likes college football has never seen before and never will again.
He was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, then returned to his alma mater and turned the program into a juggernaut, leading the Gators to 122-27-1 record from 1990-01 and a national championship in 1996. After a stint with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier landed at South Carolina, where since 2005 he’s racked up a school record 86 wins.
But those wins slowed down of late. After an SEC East championship in 2010 and three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13, the Gamecocks fell to 7-6 in 2014, and are off to a 2-4 mark this fall. With the possibility of losses to nemeses old and new like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson ahead, Spurrier, it appears, would rather fade away quietly to the putting green.
Perhaps no two sentences summarize Spurrier, then and now, more precisely than this:
Combined with his three years at Duke, Spurrier closes up shop with a 228-89-2 mark, and a bust in the coaches’ wing of the Hall of Fame waiting for him.