July 15, 2008

Marks highlights deep DT position

When Don Dunn looks over his depth chart at defensive tackle, he sees enough players to fill out a three-deep.

What he doesn't see is a lot of experience.

"Even though we have a lot of numbers, we're still very young as far as playing experience," said Dunn. "We have a good, young nucleus, but I'm concerned about their playing experience.

"In two-a-days and those scrimmages, I have to get them tons of reps so they can see everything full speed."

Fortunately for Dunn, he does have one experienced starter he can depend on in junior Sen'Derrick Marks, who moved back inside from d-end to d-tackle in the spring.

Marks, who has been named a Playboy Preseason All-American and to the watch lists for the Nagurski and Outland Awards, has started 26 straight games for the Tigers tallying 82 career tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks.

"He's played in a lot of big games for us," said Dunn. "He's a good athlete. He's got great hips, flexibility and agility. He was a very good basketball player in high school and I think it carried over into his football.

"He's gotten bigger and stronger. When he first got here he was weak because he'd never lifted. He's done a great job in the weight room."

Marks, who is already projected as a high 2009 NFL Draft pick, will represent Auburn at SEC Media Days July 25.

"He's a great person who works hard and wants to be a leader," said Dunn. "We've demanded that out of him."

Along with Marks will be junior Jake Ricks and sophomores Mike Blanc and Zach Clayton. Ricks, who has the most experience of the trio, will begin fall as one of the starters.

"Jake and Mike Blanc and Zach Clayton have played some in games but they haven't played a lot," said Dunn. "Other than Jake, they haven't played when the game's been on the line.

"We've put a lot of pressure on them saying, 'Look, there's nobody else.' Before, they knew they were going to play but they also knew their role, that they weren't going to be the guys in with the game on the line.

"Now, they are those guys."

While Ricks has played in 19 career games, he has just nine career tackles and has missed a lot of practice time with injuries the last couple of years.

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