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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Goggans aces first test

Michael Goggans made a splash on his first play as a starter for Auburn's defense, returning a fumble for a touchdown during Saturday's win against Louisiana-Monroe.

A year ago, however, some of Goggans' teammates weren't sure he could make the switch from tight end to defensive end.

Goggans moved to defensive end after playing tight end for Auburn's scout team as a true freshman. That spring, he moved to the defensive side of the ball.

"When he first got over there, he was slow," said defensive end Antonio Coleman. "I thought it might not work. Mike Goggans has come a long way. I credit him for all that hard work and all the things I taught him and all the things he wanted to learn."

Coleman forced the fumble that Goggans scooped for a touchdown on ULM's first offensive play of the game.

Coleman wasn't the only player who had his doubts about Goggans.

Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks started in front of Goggans last season, when Marks played strong-side defensive end.

"I've seen him come a long way," Marks said. "We were rooming together and going to different things together, and I saw how he was handling things last year. He's handling things much differently this year, so I think he grew up a lot. He's got way more maturity than he had last year."

Even during the spring, however, some thought Goggans simply was a placeholder for junior college transfer Raven Gray.

Instead, Goggans had a breakout spring while Gray missed the entire spring practice.

By preseason camp, Goggans had established a significant lead over Gray, who never was healthy enough to challenge Goggans' starting status.

Goggans displayed his development Saturday night and was named Auburn's Defensive Player of the Week.

Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said Sunday that despite registering only two tackles, Goggans had an impressive night. He and Coleman finished as the Tigers' two most productive defenders in the season-opener.

For Goggans, this season has been about earning his spot as a starter.

"It felt a little different," he said. "I know I have to go out there and execute about 100 percent. I can't go out there and have mental busts, mental errors. I'm the starter, so I've got to live up to expectations."

Goggans said he is upset that he, and not Coleman, is getting most of the attention.

Regardless, the opening touchdown launched Goggans into the spotlight.

"It was real exciting," Goggans said. "I just wanted to go out there in my start and do something real big. You can't ask for much more than getting a touchdown on your first play. It just felt real good. It's like, 'Keep up the good work.' "

That's what Goggans has done for the past year.

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