Muscle Shoals, Ala. – Auburn commitment Dee Liner was all over the field as Muscle Shoals finished region play at 7-0 with a 48-26 victory at Lee-Huntsville on Friday.
Down 12-7 at halftime, Liner and the Trojans defense forced several turnovers that turned into points for the offense as the game quickly turned into a 35-12 blowout in favor of Muscle Shoals early in the fourth quarter.
“It feels good,” Liner said. “We were a little down in the first half. We haven’t been allowing that many points. It’s real sweet. We haven’t won a region since, I think, 1988. It feels good for our whole school and our whole team.”
Muscle Shoals led 7-0 for much of the first half, but Lee scored on a touchdown pass from Jeremy Hinds to Chester "Trey" Rogers with 12 seconds remaining. Devan Sullivan, one of the top running back prospects in the state of Alabama for 2014, fumbled the ensuing kickoff which turned into six more points for Lee.
“I thought (Lee) Coach (Harold) Wells and them did a good job,” Muscle Shoals head coach Scott Basden said. “Lee had every intention of knocking us off, and it looked like there for a while we were going to sit there and let them do it. I thought the kids responded well at halftime and came out and out played well in the second half.”
Rogers, who has some small college offers, had 19 receptions and two touchdowns as Lee was the only team in the region to score more than seven points on Muscle Shoals.
Muscle Shoals, ranked fifth in this week’s rankings in 5A, improved to 8-1 overall with the loss to 6A Florence. The Trojans will play 9-0 Deshler and No. 4 of 4A on Thursday and get the home-field advantage in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. The first playoff game will be Nov. 4 against 6-3 Chelsea.
“It’s going to be big because last year we lost in the first round,” Liner said of having home field. “We’re trying to go all the way this year no matter what. So we’ve got to keep going hard in practice.”
Muscle Shoals ended the regular season last year with an 8-7 victory over Deshler, but followed it with an opening round loss in the playoffs to Arab by the same score of 8-7.
“Once you get into the playoffs everybody’s got the same record,” Basden said. “I think we learned a lot last year when we didn’t finish what we started, and we got beat in the first round.”
Against Lee, Liner started the game inside at defensive tackle in a four-man front, but the Muscle Shoals coaches quickly realized that they weren’t even going to try to run against him. Liner played most of the game rushing the passer in a three-man front from the end position.
He forced a pair of fumbles, was in on a couple of sacks and had Hinds on the run all night long. Liner, who will turn 18 on Saturday, said he’s currently checking in at 6-3 1/2 and 260 pounds.
“It feels real good, because that’s what I’m supposed to do,” Liner said of his big plays. “I just keep working hard and go full speed every play.
“When they move me inside it’s for when they’re trying to run up the middle,” he added. “I just take the center and push him in the backfield and mess up their traps and stuff. When they move me back to my regular spot, if they try to run outside I just get off my block and make my tackle.”
Coach Basden said they also move Liner around so teams can’t game plan around him.
“He’s just so versatile,” Basden explained. “If you leave him in the same place all the time people will try to game plan for him. He’s versatile enough of an athlete we can put him a lot of different places and it’s hard to game plan for just him up on that front.
“This is was just a normal game for him,” he added.
One of Liner’s forced fumbles was on a reverse where he chased down the ball carrier and punched the ball out. In addition to be able to collapse the pocket by pushing through double teams, he showed the speed and athleticism to play sideline to sideline, which is something he gets from practice.
“I do most everything I do with the skill guys,” Liner said. “I can move like skill guys do. In practice I don’t run with the defensive linemen, I run with the skill guys, like the fast people. During the sprints we’ve got a certain time to get down the field, and they make me run with the skill guys because I get their time.”
While Liner has the size, strength and athleticism to be one of the top defensive line prospects in country in 2013, Coach Basden appreciates the person that he is.
“I love being around him because he’s a better person than he is a football player,” Basden noted. “Anytime you’ve got that combination, those kids are great to coach.”
While Liner is this dominant as just a junior, he said he is still growing and expects to be bigger by his senior season.
“I’ll probably be about 6-5 and probably 280 or 275,” he said. “And they’re going to put a lot more weight on me at Auburn too. I want to play defensive tackle and outside linebacker. That’s what I love to play because I move around good.”
Football is the only sport Liner plays in high school.
“They want me to play basketball,” he said. “Instead I just get in the weight room and get bigger and stronger.”
Liner, who said he has been an Auburn fan his entire life, committed to the Tigers on June 11 and was one of a select few upcoming juniors invited for Big Cat Weekend this summer. He plans on returning for a visit for the Iron Bowl this year on Nov. 26.
“I was there Big Cat Weekend and I was there when they played Florida,” he said. “It was great this last weekend. What I like about Auburn is when they’re down they keep fighting no matter. That’s what I really like about the team.
“I love the coaches,” Liner added. “I feel like it’s home down there, and it feels good. I like (Gene) Chizik because he’s straight up with you no matter what. And I’ve been an Auburn fan all of my life.
Liner was recruited primarily by Phillip Lolley and Mike Pelton. “But I hang out with all of the Auburn coaches, all of the Auburn players, everybody. I have a great time. We’re family down there. I like Coach (Scott) Fountain too.
Liner, a four-star prospect by Scout.com, was the first commitment for Auburn’s class of 2013. He is one of three so far, joining Trey Johnson and Jayron Kearse. He chose Auburn over offers from Kentucky at Alabama.
Liner said Alabama is still trying to recruit him, and the Tide coaches want him to visit Tuscaloosa.
“Alabama wants me to come, but I highly doubt it,” he said. “I’m an Auburn fan until the day I die.”
Click the link below to watch highlights of Liner versus Lee-Huntsville:
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