Corey Lemonier puts pressure on Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson in this file photo.Photo by Todd Van Emst
Camp start: Aug. 1
Opener: Clemson in Atlanta (Sept. 1 on ESPN at 7 p.m.)
Fun fact: Auburn and Nebraska are the only Bowl Subdivision programs with three undefeated seasons in the past two decades, while Auburn, Boise State and Utah are the only programs with two in the past decade. The Tigers were 11-0 in 1993, 13-0 in 2004 and 14-0 in 2010.
Corey Lemonier makes himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich when he wakes up, and he makes himself another one right before bed.
In trying to become a more complete defensive end as a junior on Auburn’s football team, the pass-rushing menace is doing what it takes to beef up against the run. A lanky 6-foot-4, 223-pounder when he signed in 2010 as a touted recruit from Hialeah, Fla., Lemonier entered practice this spring at 240 pounds and said last week at SEC media days that he has reached 250.
“We have always talked about gaining weight and getting physically stronger, and I have done that this offseason,” Lemonier said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re going against an offensive lineman, tight end or running back, when you’re rushing the passer you’re just attacking and not worrying about it. It is a whole new ballgame stopping the run, especially in the SEC.”
The most dynamic player in a program still restocking talent following the exodus of stars from the 2010 national championship team, Lemonier hopes to help Auburn drastically close the gap against SEC West Division rivals Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. The Tigers went 8-5 last season but lost to those three by a combined 125-38, and they fell flat against SEC East champ Georgia, losing 45-7.
Lemonier totaled 47 tackles, 15 quarterback hurries, 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks a year ago to earn a first-team All-SEC spot as voted on by league coaches, but his own coach has been wanting more in recent months.
“I think he’s got the art of pass-rushing down,” said Gene Chizik, who is 30-10 after three seasons with three bowl victories and one BCS title. “He is very good at it, and his body is built for it. What we did in the spring was try to work with Corey in great depth of understanding the importance of the run game — not that he doesn’t understand it, but really imparting to him that this is a game where you have to do both.
“I think he is growing in that regard. He is one of the hardest working kids that I’ve been around.”
Auburn has some uncertainty at quarterback with Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier vying for the starting role, and the Tigers will be breaking in two new starting offensive tackles.
The Tigers certainly should be stronger defensively with nine returning starters under first-year coordinator Brian VanGorder. The entire defensive front of Lemonier, Jeffrey Whitaker, Kenneth Carter and Nosa Eguae is back, and it is expected to be improved after getting gashed for more than 200 rushing yards in six games last season.
VanGorder arrived in January after four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, but apparently most teachings relayed to his new players stem from his four-year stint at Georgia in 2001-04.
“In the spring, he was always referring to David Pollack and him being a tough, physical player and being relentless,” Lemonier said. “He name-dropped him a lot of times, trying to motivate us to be that type of person.”
If history at Auburn repeats history at Georgia, then VanGorder will upgrade the defense immediately. Lemonier said it was fun this spring learning a new terminology and then practicing what he described as a much more attacking style.
The Tigers must be sharp from the start this season with opening games against Clemson and Mississippi State, and Lemonier knows he must be effective, as a pass-rusher and against the run. So bring on more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“I’ve had at least two a day for I don’t know how long,” Lemonier said.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...