A 'Knockout, Drag-out' Battle on AU's O-Line

Auburn's players and fans may have to wait a while to find out who will replace Greg Robinson in the starting lineup.

Auburn, Ala.--Based on the first two weeks of spring training the battle to replace Greg Robinson may be going on for a while--a long while.

Shon Coleman, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall and Patrick Miller, who will be a junior, are competing for the starting spot vacated by Robinson, who declared for the NFL?Draft after his redshirt sophomore season.

Shon Coleman contributed last season as a tackle and tight end.

Miller and Coleman both got work at left tackle in Auburn's first major scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. "I think it was probably equal," said Gus Malzahn, who is beginning his second season as AU's head coach.

"We have been doing that," Malzahn pointed out. "One guy will start out at practice first and the next guy will start out practice second. Once it gets going both guys were pretty much equal.

"Like we've said, we probably won't make a decision and may not make a decision even after spring," the coach said on the depth chart at left tackle. "Both of those guys are veteran guys and we feel like both of them have a starter-type mentality and talent."

Alex Kozan, the returning starter at left guard, has a front row seat to the competition for the No. 1 spot at left tackle.

"It's a knockout, drag-out fight," the 2013 Freshman All-SEC lineman said. "Both of them are great athletes. Pat and Shon are both six-foot-seven with long arms. They can bend, can move and have great hip explosion.

"Both them are going to be great players and they could start for pretty much any team in college football so we have a pretty good situation on our hands," Kozan said. "Both of those guys are attacking every day trying to get better. I don't think it is going to be settled until fall camp.

Alex Kozan

"Both of those guys are improving every day and are really focused, which you love to see," Kozan added. "Not only does it give you confidence in who you are playing next to, it pushes everyone else on the offensive line to want to become a better player, too."

Patrick Miller has extensive starting experience at right tackle.

Coleman, who also played tight end last season, said that he has exclusively practiced at left tackle through the first six spring practices. On Saturday it was his turn to open the practice running with the first team.

He noted the competition for the starting spot is good for him personally, for Miller and for the offense. "It's not a bad thing," Coleman said. "We just go out there and help each other work on certain things we need to work on, and we just watch each other on film and it gets the both of us better."

A double-redshirt due to being unable to play for football or even attend school while battling cancer, Coleman has made a strong recovery. His coaches note that he got much better in 2013 and the trend is continuing. The big tackle agrees.

"I think I've improved a lot," he said. "I think I'm much better than last year, just working on certain things in the offseason so it's been going good."

Asked what his goal is for the 2014 season, Coleman said, "Really just getting back to a national championship (game). That was the best feeling in the world so I'm just trying to help the team as much as I can do my part to help getting back to that goal."

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