Auburn's Most Improved

Several Auburn football players have made big strides in the preseason as the Tigers prepare to face Clemson in the season opener.

Auburn, Ala.—With Auburn less than two weeks away from the season opener there are still questions aplenty for Coach Gene Chizik's football team on both sides of the ball, but there are also some very good stories out of preseason camp so far.

Taking that into consideration we take a look at several players on both sides of the ball that have made significant strides in this preseason as the Tigers get ready for the season opener against Clemson on Sept. 1.

Most Improved Offensive Player: Reese Dismukes

There is little question that Dismukes has taken on a leadership role on the offensive line even though he's just a true sophomore. Starting all 13 games for the Tigers last season, Dismukes made it a point to get in better shape before spring practice and has continued that trend into the fall. Now a leaner and stronger player who has stepped up his performance level, Dismukes should be noticeably improved in 2012.

Honorable Mention on Offense: Trovon Reed and Quan Bray

Trovon Reed and Quan Bray

Two of Auburn's most explosive offensive players, the duo combined to catch a respectable 38 passes last year as freshmen, but it was for a total of just 257 yards with no touchdowns. Now in an offense that should feature them down the field more in the passing game, the two have had a solid preseason and made some big plays. If they can add that consistently during the season with Emory Blake outside and Philip Lutzenkirchen at tight end it could mean big things for the Tigers.

Most Improved Defensive Player: Jeffrey Whitaker

Jeffrey Whitaker

After playing a supporting role on Auburn's defense as a true freshman in 2010, Whitaker became a starter last season as a sophomore and was expected to take his game to another level for a young defensive group. That didn't happen as Whitaker made just 25 total tackles with just two tackles for a loss and no sacks in 13 games in 2011.

Determined to improve his play, Whitaker did a body makeover and enters the new season down 20 pounds. Much quicker and more explosive off the ball, he has cemented himself as one of the starters at defensive tackle and could be the anchor the Tigers are looking for on the defensive line.

Honorable Mention on Defense: Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith

A starter for just one game his first two seasons at Auburn, Smith has taken to Brian VanGorder's new defense well and has a very good chance to be one of the opening night starters for the Tigers against Clemson at the safety position.

At 6-2, 204, Smith has the size that VanGorder and Willie Martinez are looking for in the back end of the defense and being a former high school quarterback serves him well in his knowledge of what offenses are trying to accomplish against the defense.

In two seasons Smith has played in 26 of 27 games with one start and has 26 total tackles. Those numbers should increase in 2012 if he can carry his good play in the practice over into the season.

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