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AUBURN — For the second time this season, an Auburn defensive lineman has been recognized as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. This time it is junior standout Colby Wooden.

Wooden was the hero of the defense during the victory over Texas A&M, with his forced fumble setting the Tigers up to make it a two-score game with just over three minutes remaining. He finished the game with one tackle for loss, one sack and the key forced fumble. 

“I'm going to recognize the defense and mention guys who, you know, play good. Congratulations to Colby Wooden for getting defensive player of the week,” said head coach Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams in the Monday press conference. Williams did note that he has done away with individual players of the week announcements from Auburn because he wants to focus on the team aspect of each game.

As for Wooden, the junior is in the midst of the best season of his career with 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles, all career highs for Wooden. He also has 42 tackles this year, with a career-high 61 last season. 

Wooden’s success was anticipated by many, as he was one of the best returning players from last year, but he has shown his versatility this year by playing more outside in relief for the injured Eku Leota. 

“Colby is super versatile. When Eku went down, I feel like Colby took a leadership spot,” said fellow defensive lineman Marquis Burks. “He put himself in that position. He went to coach Schmedding and asked about it and he wants to show that he can play on the inside and outside. He's done a terrific job with it.”

Wooden’s heroics have been part of a defensive resurgence over the last two weeks that has started up front for the Tigers. After giving up 342 rushing yards per game against Georgia, Ole Miss and Arkansas, the Tigers held Mississippi State and Texas A&M to 53.5 rushing yards per game, including just 13 yards for the Bulldogs. 

And while the rushing offenses did drop in quality over the past two weeks, Auburn’s defense missed fewer tackles and were able to shut down plays before they got past the second and third levels of the defense. 

“We emphasized tackling. Coach Schmedding got us doing these tackling drills, and he emphasized just wrapping up getting a part of his body and just going down with him,” Burks said. 

According to Pro Football Focus, the Tigers missed 41 combined tackles against Ole Miss and Arkansas while missing just 12 against Mississippi State and Texas A&M.

With the defense improving, the offense has returned to the classic brand of smash-mouth football that the Tigers were known for during Cadillac’s time as a player on the Plains. 

“We want to be tough and we want to be physical. I think one of the greatest things about the game of football is when your opponent knows that you're running the ball but you still impose your will,” Williams said. “It takes the fight out of a lot of teams, so I'm honestly okay with us running the rock.”

Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter each getting over 100 yards against A&M was the first time two Auburn players ran for over 100 yards against an SEC opponent since 2014.

Now the team will turn its attention forward to senior day with two games left on the schedule.

“I am very appreciative of the Auburn Family, the way they showed up Saturday night, wow, what an atmosphere,” Williams said. “But now it's time to turn the page.”

Senior day for the Tigers will kickoff from inside Jordan-Hare Stadium at 3 p.m. CST as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers come to Auburn for the third time.

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