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SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2007
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Groves’ backups young and ‘hot’
Coleman, Carter ready for more playing time

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

AUBURN — Will the real A.C. please stand up ...

Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman would rise quickly upon hearing that. He’s not to be confused with his teammate, true freshman defensive end Antoine Carter.

“They made it obvious who the real A.C. is,” said Coleman, through a gold smile.

So, if Coleman is “A.C.,” who is Carter?

“We just call him ‘Hot,’ ” Coleman said.

“A.C.” and “Hot” are Auburn’s reserve defensive ends, alternating to spell senior Quentin Groves. But their roles grew larger when Groves collapsed in Florida last weekend with three dislocated toes. Groves will sit out at least Saturday’s game.

It’s Coleman who will get the start at defensive end when Auburn (3-2, 1-1 SEC) faces Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1) at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

Don’t think that changes his perception of things.

“It’s the same old thing: go out and make plays,” said Coleman, a sophomore from Mobile. “(Starting) doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Losing Groves means the absence of an uncanny quickness on the defensive front. Groves’ speed and pass-rush skills can be matched by few, but “A.C.” and “Hot” have surely put up big numbers in their nominal playing time during the first five games.

Coleman, who had one tackle for loss and zero quarterback sacks all of last season, has four tackles for lost yardage and a team-leading three sacks in five games this year. His nine quarterback hurries are second to only Groves’.

“I’ve been playing like I’ve been starting,” Coleman said.

Carter graduated from Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., four months ago. He weighed 225 pounds this summer before gaining 20 pounds to meet coaches’ demands. The extra weight hasn’t slowed him down a bit, he says.

“I don’t even notice until I get on the scale and look,” said Carter, who is called “Hot” because he has the word “Hot” tattooed under his right eye and “Boy” under his left.

Carter calls the decision to get tattooed on his face “a mistake I made in my early childhood.”

Come to find out, he got the tattoos when he was 15 ... he’s 17, now.

His father, a master sergeant in the army, wasn’t too happy when his son walked through the door two years ago with “Hot Boy” permanently etched into his face, but Carter says the anger has passed.

His father now comes to every game, watching “Hot” from the stands.

“He’s a die-hard fan — win or lose,” Carter said.

Carter played 16 snaps last week in Auburn’s win at Florida, but Groves’ absence should give him more playing time as he serves as Coleman’s primary backup.

“When I saw Quentin go down, I thought: ‘Here is my chance,’ ” Carter said. “At the same time, (Quentin) always showed me what to do. Now, I just have to get out there and do what I know.”

Carter is primarily used as a pass-rusher on third downs, but this week, with Groves gone, he’ll get more “regular-down snaps,” defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said.

Carter’s pass-rush skills have produced 21/2 tackles for lost yardage, a sack and three quarterback hurries. His run defense, though, is lacking.

“From what I’ve seen, he’s got to play the run a little better,” Coleman said. “He’s a prolific pass-rusher.”

As a 15-year-old, Carter’s pass-rushing skills may have seeped into his mind. He said he chose “Hot Boy” because “I’ve got the flames. I can’t be touched.”

He’ll have to prove how hot those flames
are Saturday against Vandy’s dual-threat quarterback, Chris Nickson, a former Alabama Mr. Football who possesses characteristics similar to those of Auburn true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns.

Vanderbilt (3-1, 1-1 SEC) at Auburn (3-2, 1-1)

When: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

Where: Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn.

Line: Auburn by 71/2.

TV/radio: WZDX-54 will carry the television broadcast. The radio broadcast can be heard on FM-106.1,FM-95.9, FM-98.3 and AM-1230

Players to watch: Auburn running back Brad Lester. It will be interesting to see how many snaps Lester gets in his first action of the season. He has been suspended for lingering academic issues since January’s Cotton Bowl.

Auburn linebacker Tray Blackmon’s recovery from a twisted ankle he suffered in the season opener is nearly complete. Blackmon played just 26 snaps last week against Florida, but he should see plenty more against Vanderbilt.

The Tigers will need Blackmon’s skills to contain Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson. A former Alabama Mr. Football, Nickson is a dual-threat quarterback, much like Auburn’s true freshman Kodi Burns.

Key matchup: Nickson against Auburn’s front seven defenders. Nickson said he’s not fast enough to outrun Auburn’s quick defense, but we’ll see Saturday if his summation is on target. Without speedy defensive end Quentin Groves, Auburn lacks the speed it once had.

Weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 85 and a low of 68. The chance of rain is 20 percent.

Last meeting: Auburn 45, Vanderbilt 7 on Sept. 13, 2003, in Nashville.

Prediction: Auburn 17, Vanderbilt 6.

Ross Dellenger, Daily Sports writer

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