AUBURN, Ala. — Pre-season All-America talk, ratings as one of the best defensive ends in the nations — it’s clearly enough to make any football player lose focus.
Keeping the right mind-set throughout the season will be the biggest key for Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves. Lucky for him he has two people perfectly suited to keep his head straight — no-nonsense defensive ends coach Terry Price, and his wife, Treska.
"Me and coach Price had a talk about this," Groves said. "At the start of camp, (my mind) was all over the place. Agents were calling, scouts were out here. Coach Price told me, ‘Q, you didn’t think about it last year, don’t think about it this year.’ ”
Groves’ wife offered him the same advice. Groves passed up an opportunity to leave early — he already has his degree in criminology — to return for his senior season. As he chases Auburn’s all-time sacks leader and possibly NFL millions, Groves must retain his intensity while improving his consistency.
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"So many times, you see guys try to change for their senior years to try to impress scouts," Groves said. "If you just play football, everything else takes care of itself."
Groves has 23 career sacks entering the season, leaving him just three shy of tying the Auburn record of 26 held by Gerald Robinson. Groves proved himself to be a fearsome pass rusher in the last three years. He tallied 9.5 last year, including two huge ones against Alabama which set up short touchdowns. He wants to showcase himself as more than a third-down presence in 2007.
"I’ve got to be more consistent in pass rushing, more consistent in sacks, more consistent in stopping the run, more consistent all over the board," Groves said. "I think I’m getting there. I’m getting better, but I’m not where I need to be."
Groves could be a linebacker in the NFL, so he’s making the most of Will Muschamp’s defense, which allows him to drop back into coverage at times, almost a hybrid linebacker.
Teammate Antonio Coleman said he tries to emulate Groves, as well as measure himself against him.
"He’s got 4.3 speed; he’s a Greek god," Coleman said. "I just look up to him. He’s just a hard worker. I see what he does and try to pick up on it, see if I can do it."