Unfortunately for the Auburn defense, that is the way it has been for McClover this season after he suffered a hamstring pull in preseason and a high ankle sprain after that. No matter how hard the preseason All-SEC defensive end tried, he couldn’t take advantage of all of his natural quickness.
However, in last Saturday’s victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, the defensive end looked a lot more like his old self as he made seven tackles with four for losses, including two quarterback sacks.
“I felt real good on Saturday against Kentucky,” McClover tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. “Hopefully, I will be 100 percent for the rest of the season.”
McClover, who got a third of his tackles total for the season vs. the Wildcats, says the game in Lexington was his best in the year. He hopes to take his play up another level this Saturday night vs. the ninth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. “It is always a big game against Georgia,” he says. “We will always be pumped and ready for that one.”
Georgia is expected to have one of the most talented offenses McClover and the Tigers will face this year. The sophomore says he likes playing against strong competition. “That is what you come to the SEC for to have a chance to play big games like this and have a big challenge,” he says. “Georgia is going to be a big challenge for us and we have to meet it.”
Stanley McClover got a pair of sacks vs. the Wildcats.
One of McClover’s major assignments will be trying to contain Georgia senior quarterback D.J. Shockley, who is known for his ability to pressure defensive ends with his rollouts, bootleg plays plus his general athleticism and quickness. Shockley missed the Florida game with a knee injury, but is practicing and scheduled to start vs. the Tigers.
“I expect to see him do the same thing he has been doing,” McClover says. “He is kind of a shifty guy. He is pretty good. We expect a real big challenge from him.”
McClover and the Tigers are ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense despite giving up three touchdowns and two field goals in a 49-27 win at Kentucky. The defense had a poor second half after the Tigers took command of the game before halftime. McClover says that defensive coordinator David Gibbs is keeping the focus on this week’s game. “We tried not to talk about it too much,” McClover says. “We are forgetting about it and moving on to Georgia.”
Kickoff for this week’s SEC showdown is 6:45 p.m. CST from Sanford Stadium on the Georgia campus. The Bulldogs are 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Auburn is 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the league. McClover’s Tigers have to win to keep pace in the race for the SEC West title and the chance to defend their SEC championship. To do that, McClover says Auburn’s defense needs a big night from the defensive ends.
“It is going to be important to put pressure on the quarterback because they do a lot of play-action,” he notes. “Of course, we have to play the run first, but when it is time to rush the passer we need to do that and be a big factor in the passing game.”