AUBURN -- Dee Ford feels smarter than ever these days.
And that's a good thing for Auburn.
The junior defensive end said the past year, which included a season-ending back injury and the hire of a new defensive coordinator, forced him to become a more perceptive player. He believes the result is a player more valuable than ever before.
"I'm a more cerebral football player. I know more about that game than I did last year," Ford said. "More than help me, it helps the defense. A lot of times, I'm setting the edge of that defense. If it's not being set, I screw up the whole defense. It helps me play faster and know situations and actually get more sacks."
Ford arrived at Auburn in 2009 woefully undersized, but made a name for himself handling grueling special-teams tasks. He emerged as an above-average rush end in 2010 and into 2011 before the back injury.
Still, there were questions about Ford's size. Could he be a force against the run?
He's now up to 246 pounds - nearly 20 percent bigger than when he arrived from St. Clair County High - and strongly believes he's ready for every-down responsibilities. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder appears to agree.
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