BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. — Every offseason, Nosa Eguae goes through a painstaking process of breaking down all aspects of his game.
From there, he sets his schedule accordingly, with the individual attributes he doesn’t deem up to snuff serving as the areas he hits hardest.
Let’s go to the checklist.
Run defense? Check.
Pass-rushing? No dice.
That’s not to say Eguae doesn’t still work on getting stronger and faster, or that he eschews putting maximum effort into run support drills. He just knows there are deficiencies in his game that need to be shored up.
Namely, finding his way to the quarterback more often.
“I know I need to improve on my third down defense as far as going out there working moves in pass-rushing,” said the senior defensive end, who has collected 4.5 sacks in his first three seasons at Auburn. “That’s what I’ve been working on. I know I need to go out there and get to the quarterback.”
Enter Chuck Smith.
Eguae and other members of the Tigers’ defensive line spent time with the former Atlanta Falcons defensive end in May. Smith tallied 58.5 sacks in nine seasons in the NFL from 1992-2000, posting double-digit sack totals in three different seasons. With his playing career behind him, Smith hosts an annual camp in Atlanta for college and pro players, placing an emphasis on improving every part of a camper’s pass-rushing technique.
After working with Smith for a week, Eguae believes his technique is “light-years” ahead of what it was at the end of last season.
“He’s a pass-rush whiz as far as pass rush is concerned,” Eguae said of Smith. “He definitely dissects it from the get-off to the attacking the tackle, working your hands. He gets into it all. He’s intense. Anybody that is passionate about a craft that you’re passionate about, you definitely can talk to for hours.”
The terms “vision,” “get off,” “hands” and “hips,” among others, were seared into Eguae’s brain after his time around Smith. But that’s a good thing, since he and his teammates who attended the camp have taken that knowledge into this summer’s “captain’s practices,” replicating the same drills Smith put them through.
“‘Live life like it’s third-and-8,'” Eguae said, quoting one of Smith’s favorite sayings. “It’s definitely something you remember and you think of when you’re on the field.”
The same could be said of last season.
The bitter memories of a 3-9 record have stuck with the Mansfield, Texas, native since the clock struck zero in Auburn’s season finale against Alabama. Thinking about it “hurts,” Eguae said. He knows the Tigers can’t go back and change what happened, but it can be used as motivation.
And while last year’s dreadful showing drives the team, Eguae made one think clear: It’s not an all-consuming thought.
“We definitely don’t let it dictate our everyday workout or anything we do,” he said. “That’s something that happened, it’s in the past, but we go forward remembering it. We’re looking forward to 2013. This is my last year, this is a lot of guys’ last year. ‘It’s a new day,’ like Coach (Gus) Malzahn says every day. We’re looking forward to it, we put in the work and we can’t wait to see the results.”
Eguae was similarly delighted to ponder how good the defensive line can become, not only this fall, but in the years to come, as the Tigers boast a blend of experience and highly-touted incoming talent. In seniors like himself, Dee Ford, Kenneth Carter and Jeff Whitaker, Auburn isn’t lacking for leadership. And then there are the newcomers people can’t stop talking about in Carl Lawson and Montravius Adams.
The key, Eguae said, is to avoid complacency.
“I know guys have goals, I have my goals, Dee Ford has his goals, Ken Carter has (his) goals. All those guys have their goals,” Eguae said. “Carl Lawson, everybody is going to have their goals. For us to get to where we want to be, we’ve got to push each other.”
Eguae wouldn’t offer any predictions as to where he felt the Tigers’ line ranked relative to others in the SEC. That will be answered soon enough. Besides, look at how often preseason predictions are wrong, he said, pointing to the SEC media members abysmal mark correcting picking the conference champion, which stands at 4-17 in the last 21 years. So no, there will be no prognostications coming from Eguae.
Let’s just say if he and his teammates on the line play up to their potential this fall, he believes they’ll stack up quite favorably among the best units in the league.
“We’ve played for years together and I feel like, as a collective group, we feel like it’s our team to go out there and be a force in the SEC,” Eguae said. “We’ve put in the work and we’re looking forward to seeing everything come together and make a great year, not just for me, but the whole Auburn family.”