With center Reese Dismukes the biggest loss from a year ago, Auburn's line will develop around how well his replacement does in the middle.
Center Of Attention:
There is no question that one of the toughest players to replace this season will be Dismukes at the center position. The anchor for the offense since his freshman year, Dismukes started 50 games for Auburn on the way to winning the Rimington Trophy as a senior as the nation's top player at center.
Without him Coach J.B. Grimes is expected to turn to former offensive tackle Austin Golson to get the job done. Making a position move during bowl practices, the former Ole Miss lineman made a quick adjustment and came through with a strong spring in the middle.
At 6-5, 304, Golson is tall by center standards and could be a presence in the middle. Addiitonally, Grimes notes that the redshirt sophomore is a good all-around athlete. Still in the hunt for playing time is senior Xavier Dampeer. The back-up to Dismukes a year ago, Dampeer has been solid as well and is someone who could get the job done if called upon.
Behind those two redshirt sophomore Deon Mix has continued to work some at the center position, but is also seeing time at guard. Incoming freshman Kaleb Kim is expected to be the heir apparent at the center position for the Tigers because of his strength and athleticism. He’s likely headed for a redshirt year this fall as he learns to play a position he didn't line up at as a high school star.
Dismukes isn’t the only player who has to be replaced off last year’s line with veteran Chad Slade now trying to make the roster of the Houston Texans. While Slade is gone the Tigers get a starter back and as 2013 freshman All-American Alex Kozan returns after missing an entire season because of back surgery. Expected to be full speed, Kozan’s presence at left guard is huge for the offensive line development.
On the right side the Tigers are expected to go with sophomore Braden Smith at guard after he worked mostly at tackle along with some limited playing time at tight end a year ago. Physical and athletic, Smith’s talents should fit in well at guard in Gus Malzahn’s system because of his ability to move people in the running game.
Senior Devante Danzey could make noise on either side and had a strong spring after winning praise from Grimes for his improvement in a starting role last fall. Also in the mix at guard is Jordan Diamond. Missing the last two years with shoulder problems, Diamond is in the best shape of his career and looks determined to make a strong run at playing time.
Also in the mix at the guard positions are true freshmen Tyler Carr and Marquel Harrell. Going through spring practice with Auburn after graduating high school early, Carr has already improved his fitness level and definitely made great use of his spring on the Plains. An athletic lineman that has great feet, Harrell is headed for a redshirt season, but has a chance to be a special player down the road.
Tackle The Day:
Perhaps the strength of Auburn’s offensive line comes at the tackle positions with Shon Coleman back on the left side and Avery Young returning on the right. More confident and sure of himself with a year under his belt as a starter following a long battle with childhood cancer, Coleman is physically talented and powerful at the point of attack. He’s poised to have an improved season as is Young.
Shon Coleman got a baptism by fire last season, but with a year under his belt he should be much better in 2015.
Playing both guard and tackle the last two seasons, Young found a home at right tackle in the spring and looks to be finally settled in to one position for the first time in his career. With the desire to be the best and the skill set to back it up, Young has a chance to be one of the best in the SEC this season.
Also at tackle for the Tigers are juniors Robert Leff and Will Adams along with incoming freshmen Bailey Sharp and Mike Horton. Leff is likely the No. 3 tackle heading into the preseason while Sharp had a solid spring after graduating high school early. While not eligible this season, Texas transfer Darius James adds depth to the position.
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