Offensive Line Looking To Turn The Corner

Auburn junior Chad Slade talks about the offensive line heading into the 2013 season.

Auburn, Ala.--With the question marks at quarterback and wide receiver getting much of the preseason talk as the Auburn Tigers prepare to open football practice for the 2013 season, the key to success on offense may hinge on how well the offensive line comes together under Auburn's new OL position coach J.B. Grimes.

Returning six players who started a game last season, including four regular starters, the group has the potential to be much better as Auburn gets back to Gus Malzahn's Hurry-Up/No-Huddle offensive system following a lost year in 2012 in a pro-style setting. With juniors Reese Dismukes and Chad Slade taking on more of a leadership role the line is looking to make major strides forward this season.

"It's going pretty good so far," Slade said of the summer. "We know that we're the leaders and the older guys of the group. We have to take on the responsibility of the offensive line this year. It's a road we have been taking for two years now. We're getting prepared for it and we're getting better at it. We're doing pretty good so far."

Also back is the combination of players that started all 12 games for Auburn at right tackle last season. True freshman Avery Young started the first three games for the Tigers before an injury cut his year short and required surgery. Taking over for him was another true freshman, Patrick Miller, and he got the final nine starts. Slade got to play with both guys last fall and said it's going to be a battle to see which player can win the job.

"Avery is real healthy," Slade said. "He's back to 100 percent. That's what he told me and he said he feels good. I believe he should be good for the season."

The only starting spot at which the Tigers will have to play a new starter is at left guard as Auburn must replace John Sullen. The favorite to win the job is Alex Kozan. Almost earning playing time last season as a true freshman while redshirting, Kozan is a talented lineman with good feet and strength at the point of attack.

Challenging Kozan will be junior college transfer Devonte Danzey with redshirt freshman Jordan Diamond a possibility there as well. With the competition level high to see who lines up at the other guard position, Slade said it's going to be fun to watch and see what happens.

"They are getting pretty good with things," Slade said. "They come up to the film room and do extra. If they need help from me and even sometimes Reese can help because he has to know everything with every position. They are working hard and it's going to be a good competition between both of them."

With Auburn's quarterback position a big question heading into the season, the offensive line will need to perform well early to get the running game off to a good start and take the pressure off the passing game. Slade said he believes the group is headed for a good year because of last season's struggles, the learning that came along with it and the familiarity with getting back to Malzahn's offense.

"I can tell a big difference already because we know what to do from past years when Malzahn was here," Slade said. "Me and Reese and Greg (Robinson) were here when Malzahn was here the first time. We feel like we still remember everything about the offense.

"Having that experience on the offensive line is a big help because whenever they feel like they don't know what to do, we know what to tell them," Slade added. "I believe it's a big help having four experienced offensive linemen coming back."

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