Auburn, Ala.--The big news as Auburn opened spring practice on Friday concerned three returning starters from the 2013 SEC football championship team.
Alex Kozan, who earned Freshman All-SEC honors last season at left guard, will miss the entire 2014 season after having back surgery. The coach said that Kozan hurt his back while on a break from school while lifting waits back in Colorado.
Alex Kozan is shown in action vs. Tennessee.
“The doctors felt like it was the best thing for his future to have surgery,” Malzahn said, noting that the rehab for the issue wasn’t working. “Obviously, that is a big blow for our guys up front with the type of year he had and the type of player he is. With that being said, we do have quality depth up front.”
Preseason All-SEC senior center Reese Dismukes said it is tough to see his teammate Kozan sidelined. “Obviously, it is a terrible situation, but he will move on and get better. That is what we do.”
Sophomore Jeremy Johnson will start the first game at quarterback, but Malzahn indicated that Marshall will be the main man at the position again this year. The coach did not say how much of the Arkansas game Marshall and Mincy would miss, but added the pair face additional punishments that are being done internally. He declined to say what those are.
“I will say this, Nick Marshall is still our quarterback and Jonathon Mincy is still our cornerback,” Malzahn said.
Junior wide receiver Ricardo Louis said that Marshall apologized to his teammates and that he still has respect from the other players. “I can see a lot of confidence with him the way he is throwing the ball,” said Louis, who added that he believes Marshall won’t let the punishment “affect him at all.”
Marshall received a citation but was not arrested for a traffic stop in Georgia last month. He was cited for having too much tint on his window and less than an ounce of marijuana in his vehicle. Mincy was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped in Houston County in south Alabama in late June. He was charged with second degree possession of marijuana.
Kozan was very impressive last season after redshirting in 2012. He started all 14 games for the Tigers. Malzahn noted the team has options on the offensive front and it helps having a guy like Slade who has started at both guard spots and played both tackle positions as well as Young, who has lined up at tackle and guard.
"We have a little flexibility," the coach said. "Chad is a guy, he'll be a four-year starter. He has played tackle, he has played both guards. It gives us a lot of flexibility. Avery Young, we've played him some guard in the spring. Shon Coleman got most of the reps at left tackle last (spring). Miller got a lot of reps at right tackle. We have some flexibility there, but obviously any time you lose a starter that played very well, that is a challenge, but we do have some quality depth at the offensive line and that's a good thing."