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SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2007
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Healthy Powers relishes new starting role

By Ross Dellenger
sports@ decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

AUBURN — Following Saturday’s practice, a shirtless Jerraud Powers walked into the interview room with a large bag of ice taped to his right shoulder.

“It’s just soreness, nicks and bruises you get along the way,” he said, surely causing those in his hometown of Decatur to breathe a collected sigh of relief.

For a guy that can’t seem to escape injury, Powers is finally completely healthy, one of the reasons the sophomore is no longer just a backup cornerback.

He has practiced with the first-stringers for the last week and looks to start come Sept. 1 when Auburn hosts Kansas State to kick off the season. But the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder knows there is still plenty of time for that to change.

“Right now, it’s a lot of competition going on and nobody has a guaranteed spot,” he said. “We have no depth chart right now. It’s whoever is playing the best. It feels good knowing I am playing with the first team, but there are no guarantees.”

Coming into fall practice Powers was listed as the No. 2 cornerback behind seniors Patrick Lee and Jonathan Wilhite, but as of a week ago, that changed.

Lee began playing with the second stringers and Powers with the starting squad.

Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp christened Powers as the No. 1 cornerback following last weekend’s scrimmage.

“Jerraud has had a really outstanding camp,” Muschamp said Saturday. “He’s a mentally tough, physically tough kid.”

It hasn’t always been this easy for the Decatur High grad. Powers has undergone two surgeries in two seasons with the team.

He fell behind early during his first season when he broke his foot during preseason practice just a week before the team’s 2005 opener. He had surgery and redshirted.

After regaining his health, Powers separated his shoulder in fall practice a year ago, but forced himself to play through the pain, appearing in all 13 games last season.

Following Auburn’s Cotton Bowl victory, he had surgery on the shoulder, causing him to miss the main part of spring practice: hitting.

But, now, for the first time in his college career, a fully healthy Powers has been able to spread his wings.

“He understands the game, leverage on the ball, playing the receiver, formation recognition,” Muschamp said, listing Powers’ skills on the gridiron. “He’s truly a student of the game.”

Powers credited much of his recent success to Lee, the guy he unseated from the No. 1 rotation.

“When he’s in there, I am telling him things to do if he doesn’t know,” he said. “When I am in there, he’s telling me.”

The camaraderie is making them “both better,” Powers said. He describes Lee as a “brother,” but added that the competition between the two is at a peak just 14 days away from the opener.

When the Tigers play five defensive backs, Lee will take command of the corner spot, as Powers shifts to the nickel sport — or fifth man. But in regular four-man secondary work, Powers has been the corner alongside Wilhite, a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection.

Powers said that during the season Muschamp will probably interchange Lee and him depending on how they match up against different receivers.

But for now, Powers is on the starting squad. Whether he’ll be there 14 days from now will depend on a lot, including injuries.

“Once we get to the week that we play Kansas State, and I am still the first-team guy, I would be pretty excited,” he said.

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