Saturday, August 6, 2011

Whittaker taking on leadership as a sophomore

Auburn defensive tackle Jeffrey Whittaker looks to be a likely starter this season after performing well in a reserve role as a freshman.

He spoke with the media Friday night after practice.

Here's what he had to say:

How have things been going?)

“Things have been going good. I’m excited. To be honest, I’ve got a lot of work to do. But excited to just learn from the teaching, and the details of Coach (Mike) Pelton. Just can’t preach how much I feel just more confident just being around him each day, being myself and getting better and better. Not there yet. Not where I want to be. But I’m getting better and better.”

Are you defensive linemen good friends?

“Yes. I think the offensive and defensive lines have got to be the two closest groups on the team. That’s the definition of working together, those two groups. The D-line, lot of camaraderie, we hang out a lot. Got to start doing a better job at that. We get to know each other. The crazy thing is we actually helped recruit every freshman D-lineman that is here. We’ve been knowing them since before we got here. So we’ve been knowing each other for awhile. We’re kind of getting to see how everybody plays. It’s exciting.”

How are the young ones?

“They’re doing good. The deal is today’s the first day of pads. I know how that goes. When I first got here, it was going 200 miles per hour. And I said to myself, ‘Did Coach Rocker lie to me when he was recruiting me, saying I was going to be a good player someday? Because I don’t see it right now.’ That’s the kind of mentality I had, then I got confident. The thing that encouraged me, the freshmen we have in are confident, focused, going at it 100 percent. Me, the quote, unquote ‘older guy,’ we understand we all have a part-time job. We’re all fighting for our job. I can say watching these guys … because I know what I see now, it’s not going to be like that four weeks from now. They’re going to be much better. You just know that you’ve got to do your job. For the future, we know we’re going to have a lot of ballers on the defensive line.”

Does it feel weir to be one of the 'old guys?'

“When I was recruited, one deal Coach Rock brought to me was I was going to have to be different. It was OK to be different. I was going to have to be a leader. I was going to have to get with all my teammates, that’s the job I was going to have to do. I had to do all that and at the same time play ball. I’ve been on this deal since they recruited me that way. Now that I’m going into my second year, Coach Pelton’s getting on me about, ‘It’s OK to say something. If you’re doing something good, somebody come and do something wrong, it’s OK to come and correct. We’re all in this together.’ My deal is I’m still working on the leadership skills, and I know I learned from the Zach Claytons of the world. The vets I had around me helped so much going into this year. It was not a normal year. I actually think I went up against the best offensive line every day. I had a chance to go out and do something a lot of people don’t have a chance to do. I got to go out and win a national championship. That whole year helped me right now starting my second season.”

What's the potential of this defensive line?

“Great potential. Gabe, Angelo, Niles, Sigler, all of them have great potential. Just sitting back as an older guy, you look back and you know this is what Auburn is about. It’s about competing every day, because just like that, if you go down, somebody’s going to take your spot and do it well. Just like that. You can’t slip up. But it’s in a family environment. We love each other, we all joke around, but when we’re out on the field, we realize it’s all business. I am excited. I’m not saying we’re there. I’m just saying I’m excited to be a football player at Auburn.”

Do you make fun of Angelo (Blackson)?

“He’s a freshman. They did it to me so I’ve got to keep the tradition alive. But it’s good teasing. He always complains, says, ‘Man, why is it so hot? All the time?' I’m like, ‘Hey, it’s the South, baby. It’s Mother Nature welcoming you in.’”

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