Offensive tackle is a position at which the Tigers were short on depth last season. As Coach Gene Chizik's team prepares for the 2012 season the Tigers have more bodies to work with at the tackle spots, but have even less experience.
That situation has opened the door for a young player like Patrick Miller to break into the playing rotation. The early graduate from Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., arrived in Auburn this January. He participated in winter workouts, spring training and put himself in position to challenge for a starting job this fall.
The six-foot-seven, 273-pound lineman earned praise from both Chizik and Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. He also spent a significant portion of spring drills running with the first offense at right tackle with redshirt freshman Greg Robinson running number one at left tackle.
"The most impressive thing about Pat is he came in here and stepped in this spring," Grimes says. "Most of the time, when you have a first-time guy who is out there on the field, particularly if that guy gets reps with the first group, you notice him because he is messing stuff up.
"Pat wasn't that kind of kid," Grimes says. "He is a kid who learned the system quickly and even though he wasn't ready physically this spring because he needs time in the weight room to get bigger and stronger, football is important to him."
Miller, who was ranked as a four-star offensive tackle recruit by Scout.com, was a two-year starter at Dwyer High after transferring there from Bemjamin High where he played tight end and defensive end.
Patrick Miller is shown during a spring practice.
A two-time All-State selection, he was a visitor to Auburn's Big Cat Weekend in May of 2011. He later verbally committed to LSU over Auburn, North Carolina, Miami, FSU and Florida, but changed his plans and enrolled at Auburn where he has an excellent chance to play this fall.
Both of Auburn's starting tackles last year, Brandon Mosley and A.J. Greene, were seniors in 2011 and are currently trying to make NFL rosters. The only returning Auburn player with experience at offensive tackle is redshirt sophomore Chad Slade. He opened the 2011 season as the starter at right tackle, but moved inside and started at guard the rest of the season.
Because of the shortage of linemen, particularly tackles, Chizik and his staff signed Miller plus six other offensive linemen in their 2012 class.
Scout recruiting analyst Chad Simmons noted that Miller is a young lineman with a lot of potential. "When I first saw him about two years ago he was a long, lanky player," Simmons said. "He has really started to fill out. He plays with a nasty streak and a lot of upside."
Jack Daniels, Miller's coach at Dwyer, agrees with Simmons about the lineman's potential. "Pat was a great player for us as our starting left tackle the past two seasons," Daniels points out. "If you watched us play it didn't take a rocket scientist to see that we liked to run the football behind him.
"His footwork is excellent and he was athletic enough that we pulled him as a blocker, something he was good at doing. For a big kid he is very athletic, very flexible. He is a player we really enjoyed coaching here."
Daniels says that Miller has the type of attitude that coaches like in offensive linemen. "Off the field he is a nice guy. On the field he had a nasty attitude, which is what we wanted to see. When he blocked somebody, he didn't just want to lay on them. He wanted to bury them."
Miller's position coach at Auburn also likes Miller's aggressiveness. "He is an extremely competitive and tough kid," Grimes says. "He is a young kid we are expecting big things from."