Auburn, Ala.--One of the most important things Auburn Offensive Line Coach J.B. Grimes does every preseason is shuffle his players to learn different positions in case of injuries. That practice paid off in a big way for the Tigers last weekend when starting right tackle Patrick Miller went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the win over Louisiana Tech.
With Miller out of the lineup it meant Avery Young slid back over to right tackle from his guard position, but it left a hole in the front give for Auburn. The guy called on to fill the void was junior Devonte Danzey.
Jumping in at right guard, Danzey played well in his first extended action for the Tigers since coming to Auburn last season from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Grading out at 84 percent for the game, Danzey did a good job of filling in, according to Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee.
“We had to play some musical chairs there with Pat going down in the middle of the game, and some other things, so overall, they did well,” Lashlee said. “Physically, we did well when we were locked on. When you move a guy, like Avery started the game and he popped out to tackle real quick, I thought Devonte Danzey did a good job of stepping in there and playing well for us."
It has been a long and winding road for Danzey to find his way onto a Division I football field after being a late bloomer at Tampa Bay Tech High in Florida. Wanting to give football a shot after being told he might have a future, he made his way to Kansas to play junior college football and that is where everything came together for him.
Committing to Auburn on Christmas Day in 2012, Danzey arrived at Auburn last fall hoping to earn playing time. While he said he learned a lot about life in the SEC and Gus Malzahn’s offensive system, it wasn’t on the field as he saw very limited action as a back-up guard while battling through nagging injuries.
This preseason was a different story for Danzey as he showed up full speed and ready to make a push at playing time for the Tigers. While he didn’t win a starting job, he made strides in his technique and the fundamentals at the position. Now called on to play he said everything came much easier for him.
“I didn't overthink it,” Danzey said. “I just played as if it was practice, just rattling along with the other players like the senior leaders. Reese (Dismukes) told me just to rally behind him and keep playing as I play in practice.
“The first couple of drives, my adrenaline was running so much,” he added. “It felt like every play I was tired, but once I got the rhythm it was fun.”
A veteran and one of the top offensive linemen in the country, Dismukes said it’s always tough when you have to transition on the offensive line, but based on what he saw last week Danzey did a good job at left guard.
“He played well,” Danzey said. “He was able to get in there and do some good things. Whatever happens this weekend, whether he’s in there or not, we’re confident if he’s out there.”
With Miller’s status still in question this week Danzey could be called upon to play a big role against a talented LSU defense. Dismukes said the changes on the line makes things a little more difficult, but it’s nothing they can’t handle if forced to make a switch.
“The most challenging part about it is just chemistry, just working with the same guy every day,” Dismukes said. “With the offensive line you’ve got to have five guys on the same page and doing the same thing and knowing how one guy is going to react to this situation or that situation. You just have to continue to work on that.”
Even if he doesn't play guard this weekend Danzey said he will continue to work to improve as a player. And if he does play? He said it would be a great opportunity and one he would relish.
“It would be big,” Danzey said. “LSU is LSU. They are a big-time SEC team, and they're known for their history and stuff. It's going to be a good challenge.”