Expectations High for OL, Kozan Says

Alex Kozan, a 2013 All-SEC Freshman, is a returning starter for Coach Gus Malzahn's Auburn football team.

Auburn, Ala.--Even with two-year starting left tackle Greg Robinson leaving early to be selected as the No. 2 pick in the first round of the NFL?Draft, the offensive line should be a strength for the 2014 Auburn Tigers.

One of the reasons for that is the return of Alex Kozan, who earned Freshman All-SEC honors at guard last fall while lined up next to Robinson. Kozan notes that the offensive line group has high expectations for its level of performance.

"Our goal is to be better than last year, and last year we led the nation in rushing yards so we just want to continue to improve and be the best that we can be," he says.

The Tigers also return their other starting guard, senior Chad Slade, along with first team center Reese Dismukes, a senior, and starting right tackle Avery Young, a redshirt sophomore.

Position coach J.B. Grimes has plenty of experience to work with this year.

"Between the four of us we have a pretty solid group, a lot of athleticism, and a lot of guys competing for that fifth spot, too, and a lot of guys competing to take one of the four guys jobs," Kozan says, noting the returning starters cannot afford to slack off.

"Coach Grimes is coaching everybody up," Kozan adds. "We are light years ahead of where we were last year."

The Tigers have a chance to be two deep in quality players at all five offensive line spots if juco transfer Xavier Dampeer is ready to back up Dismukes, a job previously handled by Tunde Fariyike, who plans to attend medical school instead of returning as a fifth-year senior.

Alex Kozan is shown during his redshirt freshman season.

Coach Gus Malzahn notes that Dampeer, who enrolled at Auburn in January, made progress in spring drills. Kozan agrees.

"Xavier has done great for a guy who has just come in," Kozan says. "He has picked up the offense pretty quickly. I am very impressed with a lot of things Xavier is doing. He is working hard, which what you like to see. Xavier is definitely focused and we're expecting some big things from him this year and in the future."

Who will line up next to Kozan as the starting left tackle is still to be determined. Shon Coleman, a redshirt sophomore, and junior Patrick Miller both worked with the first team in spring drills. Miller has a season's worth of starting experience at right tackle. Coleman played well last year in a reserve role.

"I think we're very confident with both of them," says Kozan who adds, "Sometimes I don't even know who is playing next to me just because you're locked and focused on your job."

Kozan and the Tigers won't have too wait long once the season starts to begin their defense of both the SEC West title and the overall league crown because Auburn plays divisional foe Arkansas in the opener on August 30th at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Kozan predicts his Tigers will be ready for a good showing on opening day. "We have a lot of athleticism on offense, a lot of speed and everybody is hungry to improve. We are trying to take that next step forward as a team."

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