BY RYAN BLACK | firstname.lastname@example.org
AUBURN, Ala. — Fall camp is just one day away.
But on Thursday, which was set aside for Auburn’s players to officially report for the preseason, football seemed to be the last thing on the Tigers’ minds. Instead, the most popular topics of discussion revolved around jersey numbers and housing accommodations.
Take Dee Ford, for instance.
Auburn’s top pass-rusher and a preseason All-SEC second-team selection at defensive end will no longer don No. 95. The senior will take on No. 30 this fall, which he’ll share with punter Steven Clark.
“He better make me proud then,” Clark joked on Thursday when told of Ford’s move. “I mean, I was wearing it first, right?”
Besides, Clark was more disappointed that he was losing someone who could have been a fantastic “gunner” when he goes to punt.
“It kind of upsets me I’m not going to have him on my punt team,” he said. “Can’t have two numbers on the same side of the ball. That would have been nice to have a guy running down there. Probably would get me a few more fair catches.”
Fellow defensive lineman Kenneth Carter wasn’t aware of Ford’s decision, either.
Not that he was surprised by it.
“It’s not weird,” he said. “It’s just Dee.”
Nosa Eguae, Ford’s counterpart at right defensive end, was similarly mystified by the number change. Like Clark, he wasn’t a fan, citing the synergy of them wearing back-to-back numbers in the 90s, with 94 and 95, respectively.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a little different,” he said. “I liked the 9-4, 9-5 tandem going on, but I guess he’s trying to get like a linebacker and show off his speed with a little smaller jersey.”
Ford is far from the lowest number among defensive linemen, though. That honor goes to true freshman Montravius Adams, who will wear No. 1.
No, that is not a misprint.
“That’s going to be the biggest ‘(No.) 1′ in the nation,” Eguae said. “Six-five, 300 pounds. But that’s going to be nice. These guys, they’re trying to up it up a little bit. We’ve got a No. 1, and I know a bunch of guys are trying to get into single-digit numbers. I wore it in high school, but I’m going to stick with the 94.”
Eguae also stuck to his guns with his living arrangements. With the South Donahue Residence Hall opening on Wednesday, some upperclassmen actually moved back on campus. Ford was one of those who took the plunge, and he tried to convince Eguae to do the same.
But that doesn’t mean Eguae isn’t impressed with the new dorm.
Far from it.
“That dorm is awesome. I was there yesterday,” he said. “It’s the ‘Taj Mahal,’ honestly. It’s the nicest dorm I’ve ever seen and I know it’s going to be the nicest dorm in the country. The guys love it. It’s going to build that family atmosphere since everyone is staying there. Even the guys that are off-campus, everybody is going to be over there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Carter will be able to speak from firsthand experience, as he is another one of the upperclassmen who decided to ditch off-campus living to settle into the plush new residence hall.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s like a mini-apartment. Just being with your teammates, we’re bonding really well.”
Carter, who will be rooming with another senior defensive lineman in Craig Sanders, said it wasn’t tough for him to move back on-campus. Obviously, having granite countertops sinks and furnished flat-screen televisions doesn’t hurt. But Carter said he did it for more than the nice amenities it provides.
He wants to try to recreate the close-knit environment he enjoyed during his first year as a Tiger.
“I kinda wanted to be closer to the team, just experience it like it was my freshman year, the jelling from us having fun together,” he said. “The way we bond together, just playing a game at night and just talking, being around each other. It makes that bond very strong.”