HOOVER, Ala. In a decision made with the blessing of his nutritionist at the end of last season, Gabe Wright decided it was high time he lost some weight.
In just a few short months, he dropped from close to 320 pounds down to 285. It just so happens that the senior defensive tackles commitment to slimming down came at the perfect time for Auburn. In his first three seasons with the Tigers, he had played exclusivey on the interior of the defensive line. But this spring, a rash of injuries befell Auburns defensive ends, decimating the depth at the position.
Thats where Wright came in.
To make up for the lack of able bodies on the perimeter, he started cross-training at defensive end.
(Defensive line) Coach G (Rodney Garner) actually wanted me (to do that) last year, but he didnt think I was ready, Wright said at SEC media days on Monday, but I respected his decision. If Im called upon, I will answer the call, theres no doubt about that. It just shows his confidence in me.
At this point, Wright has no idea how much time hell see at end this fall.
The same couldnt be said for his belief in Garners ability to discern who deserves playing time.
One thing I wont do is second-guess Coach Garner, whether its on or off the field, Wright said. But we got LaDarius (Owens) coming back, Elijah (Daniel) and me and 'Mon' (Montravius Adams) split positions, and I believe we signed three or four freshmen defensive ends who all look great. I know Coach G has it all handled.
Wright tries to control what he can as well. The former Carver star admittedly isnt a vocal leader at least not yet, anyway. Hes left that responsibility to fellow senior Jeff Whitaker, whos back for a fifth season after sitting out last year. Letting Whitaker and others take care of the rah-rah speeches allowed Wright to let his results do the talking.
Last year, his numbers spoke quite loudly, as he set career-highs in total tackles (31), tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (three) and quarterback hurries (nine).
As much as he prefers substance over style, Wright is well-aware of his weaknesses.
Thats why Wright wants to see his production go hand in hand with his words this season
Im a guy that likes to lead by example, he said. I see myself as a leader, but I think theres more to being a leader and part of that is being able to get out of your comfort zone and being able to address situations. I think theres a lot of improvement that can be done.