AUBURN, Ala. — There isn’t a move Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman makes that his understudy Nosa Eguae doesn’t watch with a discerning eye.
Driven to make as few mistakes as possible, the freshman culls information in every possible manner, whether it’s watching the senior All-SEC performer come out of his stance or simply carry himself in public.
“I don’t know if I’d be where I am right now if I didn’t have a dude like AC in front of me,” Eguae said. “Every time he’s in, I’m taking mental reps. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing; if he’s stretching, I look at him. He’s just one of those guys that you can look at no matter what.”
People might be saying that of Eguae soon. The 6-foot-2, 244-pound freshman has been a quick study in his short time on the Plains, working primarily as Coleman’s backup at rush end while cross-training on the other side of the line.
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Although it might be difficult for him to get playing time this year, Eguae has drawn rave reviews from teammates and coaches for his attention to detail and eagerness to get things right.
“He’s the type of kid that gets it,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “Football makes sense to him. As a coach, you tell you him something and then you coach him and you see it transform so he doesn’t make the same mistake again.”
While tutors never have been necessary in the classroom for Eguae, a sharp, well-spoken freshman who reportedly scored a 1330 on his SAT, he has had plenty of mentors on the football field.
He played for Kyle Geller’s successful program at Mansfield (Texas) Summit High and has two older brothers who played college football, one at Texas Tech and another at Pittsburg State, Ike, who now serves as defensive line coach at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.
“I’ve been watching him a long time,” Eguae said. “I just try to pick up on little things. I really don’t like when coaches teach me something and then I mess up again. I want to make one mistake and get it right.”
Auburn’s coaches have taken notice. Eguae’s maturity has caught the eye of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, who likes how the freshman doesn’t dwell on errors.
“He’s not standing there watching and wondering what the hell happened.” Rocker said. “He’s chasing the ball; he’s playing the game.”
“On the high school level, you’re bigger than everyone, so you’re going to make plays just being big,” Eguae said. “Just coming out there and having that effort, that’s what’s going to set you apart on the next level.”
Eguae got to Auburn through a bizarre convergence of paths on the recruiting trail. He had drawn interest from throughout the country, briefly committing to Colorado before opening up his recruitment again in January, just as Auburn’s new staff came together.
Eguae was familiar with the crew. Gene Chizik and Jay Boulware had recruited him at Iowa State. Curtis Luper did so at Oklahoma State, as did Roof at Minnesota and Rocker at Mississippi.
“It was just like everyone came to one place,” Eguae said. “It was crazy.”
Leaving Texas’ football hotbed wasn’t easy. Friends pressured him to stay close to home, and the state schools called him until National Signing Day.
“They don’t like people leaving Texas at all,” he said.
But one trip to SEC country was all Eguae needed. So far, it’s been the right move for him.
“When you come here and you see what’s in the SEC, I keep telling the boys back home that are being recruited by Auburn right now, it just doesn’t compare,” Eguae said. “I’ve been in those Big 12 schools; the SEC is the place to be.”