Auburn Football: 4-2-5 Defense Making Robenson Therezie a Star
Robenson Therezie saw an opportunity, and he jumped at it.
It was a second-down play from Auburn's 21-yard line. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had driven the Rebels deep into Tigers territory, putting them in position to tie the game or take the lead early in the contest.
"We were in man coverage," Therezie said Sunday, setting the scene. "My eyes were on my man."
That's when Therezie's eyes shifted to something else—an opportunity.
"He kind of loafed off the ball and ran two yards back," Therezie said. "It was a screen and I was trying to spike the gap I ended up looking at the ball. Bo Wallace threw it right in front of the receiver to the point where I could just reach out my hand and grab it. That's what I did.
"I tipped it up and just grabbed it and went for six."
Therezie picked off Wallace's pass, and returned it 78 yards for an Auburn touchdown, to give the Tigers a 13-3 lead with less than two minutes to play in the first quarter.
With the Rebels already in field goal range at the time of the snap, the play marked at the very least a 10-point swing. In what turned out to be an 8-point game Saturday night—a 30-22 victory for Auburn—that single play just might have been the difference.
Seizing the opportunity is nothing new for Therezie.
The junior has made an entire season out of a single, seized opportunity at the 'Star' position—the extra defensive back and linebacker-safety hybrid in defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's 4-2-5 scheme.
Going into the season, Therezie was slated to serve as backup and 'double-Star' in the Tigers' dime package, behind junior Justin Garrett. But when Garrett went down with a knee injury during fall camp, Therezie was called to action against Washington State.
Therezie made the most of it, pulling down two interceptions in the Tigers' season-opener.
"I feel like it's the most perfect position for a guy like me, an undersized safety/corner," Therezie said. "I'm a guy that can fit in the box and fit the run and still cover. I feel like it's the perfect position for a player like me."
It certainly seems to be the right fit for Therezie—and his 5-9, 204-pound frame.
In five games this season, Therezie has used his range to pull down three interceptions—more than the entire Auburn secondary came down with in all of 2012—and his strength to wrestle down a team-high 28 tackles that year.
"I don't know if I would have thought that he was going to lead the team in tackles, but I thought he could be a really good player at that position," Johnson said. "We watched him at corner, he struggled at some of the things, turning your hips and doing the things you got to do out there on those real good wide outs in deep zone.
"But he had some explosiveness, and some speed, and some physical strength and I just thought he was a natural when we moved him."
Those traits have Therezie set to start at the 'Star' and continue to be a main cog in the Johnson defense moving forward.
And it's another trait—an inherent ability to seize the moment—that started it all back in fall camp.
"I was just worrying about being prepared for whatever situation that happens," Therezie said. "As a backup and on the second-team, that's what players should think, just be prepared. How much preparation you put into it will affect the next man."
"Just be prepared"—whether it's in camp or in jumping a screen pass in the middle of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
So far, he's been the perfect fit, at all the perfect times.
Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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