March 2, 2007

Coleman stepping into the limelight

Sometimes, it's hard to stand out.

Try sharing a stage with Mick Jagger. Or standing next to Tyra Banks. Or being Quentin Groves' backup.

It's a simple fact. It's hard to be noticed when someone nearby has the kind of talent no one can take their eyes off of.

Just ask Antonio Coleman.

The sophomore defensive end spent 2006 playing behind Groves, who earned All-SEC honors and matured into a scary every-down pass rusher. With Groves deservedly soaking up the spotlight, Coleman was fairly obscure.

But observant fans - and Auburn's coaches - definitely noticed him.

Defensive ends coach Terry Price was impressed enough to move Coleman from weakside end - Groves' position - to the strong side, where he opened spring practice as the starter.

"He was a guy you could count on to get reps and get snaps as a backup as a redshirt freshman," Price said. "The one thing is, he's not scared to play physical football. He's athletic enough to fly around and move around and make some things happen."

Under defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, there's not as much difference between the strongside and weakside end. The Tigers' ends usually stay on the left or right side, regardless of where the opposing offense's tight end lines up.

But that's usually the defense's left side - where Coleman will spend most of his time from now on.

At strongside end, Coleman will spend more time wrestling with tight ends and playing the run. But he's not concerned about it. In fact, he spent the off-season playfully begging Price to make the move.

Despite the more physical nature of the position, the 6-foot-2, 258-pound Coleman doesn't plan to put on any more weight. His plan is simpler than that.

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