9 Auburn Stocked in the backfield and stacked on defense, the Tigers are primed to climb in the SEC West

August 10, 2003

For Auburn outside linebacker Karlos Dansby, Nov. 23, 2002, was
a day rich in victory and irony. That afternoon the Tigers
smothered archrival and favored Alabama, 17-7, in Tuscaloosa, as
Dansby made five tackles and blew up plays with typical abandon.
This was the same player who two years earlier, while a two-way
standout at Birmingham's Woodlawn High, had chosen Auburn over
Alabama largely because the Tigers had said he could play wide
receiver rather than linebacker, where the Crimson Tide thought
he was better suited. Yet it was as a defensive standout that
Dansby stood in a Bryant-Denny Stadium end zone five days before
Thanksgiving and crowed that Alabama could "put this L in a
turkey and smoke it."

With eight starters returning on each side of the ball, Auburn
plans to smoke all of its opponents this fall. On offense the
Tigers are particularly loaded at tailback, where junior Ronnie
Brown had a breakout performance last season (1,008 yards) after
Carnell (Cadillac) Williams (745) broke his left leg in the
seventh game. Defensively, the Tigers have six of their front
seven back, most notably 6'4", 238-pound senior linebacker
Dontarrious Thomas (92 tackles) and the 6'5", 235-pound Dansby,
who last spring was projected as a second-round NFL draft pick
before he decided to return for the most anticipated season in
Tommy Tuberville's five years as Auburn coach.

Dansby played wide receiver only during two-a-day preseason
practices as a freshman in 2000. Then the coaches convinced him
that his athleticism would get him on the field more quickly if
he switched to defense. As a safety in 2001 and at linebacker
last year, Dansby established himself as a playmaker. Last fall
he had 14 tackles for loss, made three interceptions and forced
two fumbles and recovered two.

"He could play almost any position," says Tuberville. "He's just
an all-around athlete who has made himself into a good football
player." While he's found a home at linebacker, Dansby still
dreams of taking a few snaps at receiver. "I've still got great
hands, still got my moves on the line," he says. "If you happen
to see me out there, don't be shocked." --Pete McEntegart

COLOR PHOTO: JOE ROBBINS HOLD THAT TIGER Recruited as a wideout, Dansby (11) switched to linebacker--and would love to pull double duty in '03.

FAST FACTS

2002 RECORD 9-4 (5-3, T1 in SEC West)
FINAL AP RANK 14
RETURNING STARTERS 16

KEY RETURNEES (2002 stats)

LB Karlos Dansby (Sr.)
All-SEC first-teamer had 75 tackles, four sacks

RB Carnell Williams (Jr.)
123.0 rushing yards, 10 TDs in first six games

RB Ronnie Brown (Jr.)
138.5 rushing yards, 11 TDs in last six games

DE Reggie Torbor (Sr.)
Had team-high 16 quarterback hurries

LB Dontarrious Thomas (Sr.)
Defensive MVP of Capital One Bowl

TELLING NUMBER

6
Straight games in which Carnell Williams rushed for a TD, the
first Tiger to do so. The streak ended when he broke his leg on
Oct. 19.

SMART MOVE

Coach Tommy Tuberville's decision to elevate offensive line coach
Hugh Nall to offensive coordinator was the right call. An
assistant to Tuberville for eight years at Ole Miss and Auburn,
Nall prepared the Tigers' rushing attack, which last season
ranked third in the conference with 203.7 yards per game.

SCHEDULE

AUG. 30 Southern Cal
SEPT. 6 AT GEORGIA TECH
13 AT VANDERBILT
27 Western Kentucky
OCT. 4 Tennessee
11 AT ARKANSAS
18 Mississippi St.
25 AT LSU
NOV. 1 Louisiana-Monroe
8 Mississippi
15 AT GEORGIA
22 Alabama

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)