AFTER AUBURN BEAT
South Carolina last Sept.�28 in Columbia, S.C., Quentin Groves was
chatting with his teammates on the Tigers' team bus when his cellphone bleated.
Groves, a hybrid defensive end-linebacker, had been a huge presence against the
Gamecocks, totaling a season-high six tackles and one sack in a 24-17 win. But
when Groves answered his cell, the report card he received from his No.�1
fan wasn't exactly glowing.
like a weakling out there," screeched Groves's wife, Treska, who had
watched the game on television from the couple's off-campus apartment in
Auburn. "You didn't play with power. C'mon!"
"My wife is my
motivator," says Groves, who is the only married player on the Tigers'
roster. "She gives me a hard time, but it keeps me pushing myself, and
she's the one who's going to help me reach my potential."
No Auburn player
possesses more of the p word than Groves, a 6' 3'', 254-pound senior who will
be the linchpin of a Tigers' defensive unit that was ranked 19th in the nation
in total defense a year ago and has seven starters coming back. Groves, 23, was
on the 2004 Auburn team that went 13-0, and he thinks the Tigers can be that
kind of powerhouse again after finishing ninth in last year's final AP poll.
"We're just as hungry as that undefeated team," he says. "We're set
up to make a run at the national title."
For that to
happen, senior quarterback Brandon Cox must stay healthy--and upright. In '06
Cox passed for 2,198 yards despite being sacked 34 times and suffering multiple
injuries that limited his effectiveness. (He sprained his left knee and left
ankle on Sept.�16 against LSU and ruptured the bursa sac in his right knee
on Oct.�28 against Ole Miss.) But with a career efficiency rating of
137.90, second in school history only to Jason Campbell's 152.73, the
lefthanded Cox, now in his third year as a starter, has a chance to be Auburn's
top-rated passer ever, if he can remain injury-free.
finished his criminology degree last fall, is also threatening to rewrite the
Auburn record book. After getting 9 1?2 sacks last year to bring his career
total to 23, he needs just three more to tie Gerald Robinson (1982-85) as the
Tigers' alltime sacks leader.
standout, first-team All-SEC junior season, Groves thought about entering
April's NFL draft, but the league's advisory committee informed him that he
would likely be no better than a third-round pick, so he opted to return to the
Plains for his senior season. This spring Groves, who runs the 40 in
4.47�seconds and figures to be a linebacker in the NFL, worked on adding a
spin move to his pass-rush repertoire and spent countless hours in the film
room with the defensive backs so that he'll be more comfortable when he drops
showed flashes of being able to dominate games last year, and now we need more
from him," says defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. "He's got great
quickness for his size, and he's very, very good at rushing the passer. We're
expecting a big year out of him."
So, too, is a
certain hard-to-please fan.