AUBURN, Ala. — Going through spring practice with Auburn for the first time has been an enjoyable experience for Montravius Adams.
Much of this happiness is derived from his shift from defensive tackle to end. If nothing else, it’s allowed him to engage in more one-on-one matchups at the line of scrimmage.
“It takes a little off the double teams from time to time,” he said. “I'll take that.”
At this point, Adams said he is repping almost exclusive at end. His move to the outside — along with fellow defensive tackle Gabe Wright — wasn’t a wrinkle defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson had planned for his unit. It was forced upon him due to injuries at end; LaDarius Owens, who started 12 games last season, has missed the entire spring while recovering from surgery on his foot while sophomore Elijah Daniel was hobbled by a groin injury he suffered during the spring’s first season.
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So in his first — and to this point, only — meeting with reporters this spring, Johnson said Adams’ and Wright’s move was out of “necessity,” with little staying power.
That’s not what Adams has heard from his position coach, Rodney Garner.
“He said I'd be playing a little of both,” Adams said. “Wherever he wants be to play, it doesn't matter to me.”
Part of the reason it means so little is because of Adams’ faith in himself. What the sophomore lacks in experience he more than makes up for in self-confidence.
“I can do anything — anything I put my mind to,” he said. “God blessed me with a lot of athletic ability. I can do whatever I want to do.”
He showed glimpses of that during his freshman season — and it took all of one play. On the first snap he ever took as a Tiger, Adams brought down Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday for a 2-yard loss. A consensus five-star prospect from Vienna, Ga., Adams went on to appear in all 14 games for the Tigers last season, tallying 20 tackles and four sacks.
Not everything came as easy as his first sack, though.
Adjusting to the speed and athleticism at the college level took time for Adams, who graduated at Dooly County High School, which plays in the smallest classification in the state of Georgia.
Then there was getting used to Garner’s vocal, hyper-critical coaching style.
“He's very intense and I wasn't ready for all that,” Adams said. “Just learning how to deal with him and learning how to take his coaching and learning how to get his knowledge, that's something I'm really starting to get better at. I'm just listening to everything he says and doing what he says.”
That seems like a long time ago now. After going through last season, Adams is finally comfortable with everything the coaching staff throws at him. It doesn’t hurt that he’s able to call upon experienced upperclassmen for help, either.
“It feels good to learn stuff and be with these great players,” he said, alluding to Wright, Jeff Whitaker, Ben Bradley and Angelo Blackson, a quartet of senior defensive tackles. “They're probably going to move on next year and some of them are probably going to go to the league. They're going to be great men and I just want to learn everything they can teach me.”
The advice he receives — be it from teammates or coaches — won’t mean anything if he doesn’t take the necessary steps to improve on his own.
He acknowledged he wasn’t the best “practice player” last fall.
“It (was) just sometimes not really knowing what to do,” Adams said. “Not knowing the plays or stepping the wrong way. Not going 100 percent all the time. But now it's a lot better. I'm doing my fundamentals — using my hands, trying to go hard every practice and just help this team out so we can win.”
His confidence showing once again, Adams was sure the Tigers can do just that. But he immediately changed his tone and took his unit to task: If they want to avoid finishing next year the same way it did in the 2013 season, their intensity has to be turned up a few notches.
There’s no time to waste.
“We need to pick it up a lot more,” he said. “If we want to get back to where we came from last year — (and) win it all — we have to pick it up.”