The Five I'm Watching: Part IV
- Age: 22
- Class: Senior (one season of eligibility remaining)
- Size: 6 feet, approximately 210 pounds pounds
- Previous roles: Starting safety until ... injured safety
- Theme song: ``Testify," Rage Against The Machine
- Relevant lyric: "Who controls the past now controls the future; who controls the present now controls the past."
THE GOOD: Etheridge is a leader, a challenger, a guy who isn't afraid to speak his mind. Auburn hasn't exactly had an excess of those personalities in recent years. The 2008 season comes to mind there. On the field, Etheridge is a remarkably enthusiastic player. He suffered a serious neck injury last season because he was desperate to finish someone else's tackle. He's been fearless since the day he started as a true freshman for Will Muschamp. As for football skills, Etheridge is a little confounding. Safeties are supposed to cover ground quickly, defend mid-level and deep routes intelligently and provide some run support. Etheridge is a hitter; he's very useful against the run. His range is average. His cover skills are average. Roof feels comfortable with Etheridge at strong safety -- where the senior's cover skills are less vital -- and plans to play him extensively this fall.
THE BAD: Etheridge's neck injury wasn't fixed with gauze and some aspirin. Though he avoided surgery, Etheridge spent three months wearing an invasive head restraint every hour of every day. He told reporters earlier this year that luck played a role in his recovery; the injury easily could have been catastrophic. He'll be examined by a specialist next week. A decision will be made then about Etheridge's orthopedic fitness, if he'll play this fall. I expect him to gain clearance. The next question is: Will memories of that injury affect how Etheridge plays? Nobody can answer that question right now. From a football perspective, Etheridge is not particularly fast, quick or tall. Instincts, guts and cardiovascular fitness make him what he is.
THE REALITY: I'm so intrigued by Etheridge right now because there was a time last fall when he wasn't sure he'd walk again. Or play again. Now he's on the verge of medical clearance. His specialist won't play around with his assessment, though, because nobody wants to be the guy who cleared a kid who suffers a second episode. If Etheridge plays, my expectations won't change much from 2009. He's a solid player who provides enthusiasm and some significant administrative contributions between snaps. Auburn needs that.
What do you think? Speak your mind!
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
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