Auburn, Ala.--Despite losing an All-American plus a three-year starter and a part-time starter on the offensive line, position coach J.B. Grimes should have plenty of good players to work with during Auburn’s 15 spring training practices.
The biggest hole is in the middle where Reese Dismukes, the 2014 Rimington Trophy winner as college football’s top center, must be replaced. Dismukes was outstanding as a four-year starter and will have a good chance to make an NFL roster.
His top backup last season, Xavier Dampeer, was solid in limited backup time. A juco transfer who is headed into his second year with the Tigers, the 6-2, 296 Dampeer is expected to face a major challenge to finish on top of the depth chart.
Austin Golson, a 6-4, 300 redshirt sophomore who did not play in games last fall because of transfer rules, is likely to make a strong push to be the starting center. The former Prattville High star played tackle at Ole Miss in 2013 and can line up at any position on the offensive front.
Austin Golson (73) and Devonte Danzey (53) will be pushing for starting roles.
Deon Mix, a 6-4, 296 redshirt sophomore, can also play center as well as guard.
Three-year guard starter Chad Slade has graduated, but the Tigers return three players at that position with starting experience. Redshirt junior Avery Young looks primed for an All-SEC caliber season whether he is lined up at guard or tackle, both positions the 6-6, 315-pounder has played well for the Tigers.
Devonte Danzey, a 6-4, 296 juco transfer who started seven games last season, returns for his senior season.
Alex Kozan, who made the Freshman All-SEC Team in 2013, missed last season after suffering a back injury. Coach Gus Malzahn said that Kozan is expected to see some action in practice this spring, but has not said how much contact Kozan will be allowed to have.
Another possibility at guard is 6-6, 299 sophomore Braden Smith, who started the bowl game at tackle and can play outside as well. Smith also saw spot duty last season at tight end.
Jordan Diamond, who was a highly-regarded signee when he arrived at Auburn, has been plagued by injuries since he joined the team. Diamond, who is 6-6, 307, has the talent to push for a starting spot as a junior if he can stay healthy.
The Tigers return their starting left offensive tackle, Shon Coleman, who will be a redshirt junior this fall. The 6-6, 310-pounder is expected to be improved this year as he continues his strong recovery from a form of cancer that could have cost him his life.
Patrick Miller, who started five times last season at right tackle, left early to try the NFL Draft.
J.B. Grimes is in his third season coaching the Tigers.
Young started seven games last season at right tackle and gives the Tigers a proven performer at that spot if he plays outside this fall.
Under Armour All-American Bailey Sharp from Sprayberry High in Marietta, Ga., enrolled at Auburn in January and is a promising offensive tackle. Tyler Carr, an early graduate from Southside High in Gadsden, was an outstanding tackle in high school, but could move inside to guard as a college player.