Two Weeks Out: Probable Starting Lineup

Columnist Phillip Marshall does a position by position breakdown on the football Tigers.

Like every other college football team, Auburn has been going at it for almost a week and a half now. Fatigue is a constant companion.

With some players sidelined by nagging injuries and others limping, it's not easy to tell just where things stand two weeks before the opener against USC. But here is one man's position-by-position view:

QUARTERBACK: The one constant throughout practice has been praise for junior starter Jason Campbell. He appears poised to be the kind of leader and playmaker you look for at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Josh Sullivan has locked down the No. 2 job. Could he win a big game if Campbell went down? Hard to say. He certainly has the physical tools.

TAILBACK: Not much has changed here. Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown will be the bellcows. Tre Smith will be used in a variety of ways. What might surprise some folks is how dangerous Brandon Jacobs can be catching the ball out of the backfield. True freshman Carl Stewart has been very impressive. On another team or at another time, he would surely get playing time.

FULLBACK: There is no more valuable player on the Auburn team than senior Brandon Johnson. Sophomore Jake Slaughter has been impressive as the backup and has ease concerned about depth. Makes you wonder why Slaughter was moved from fullback to linebacker during last season.

SPLIT END: The highlight has been redshirt freshman Courtney Taylor. Sophomores Ben Obomanu and Devin Aromashodu have made great strides physically. Look for senior Jeris McIntyre to have his best year.

TIGHT END: What once looked like a potential problem could be a strength. Sophomore Cooper Wallace is a good one, one of the SEC's best. That's no surprise. Former offensive tackle Steven Ross and former wide receiver Anthony Mix have adapted well. Ross is a fierce blocker who can catch if needed. Mix, at 240 pounds, can block, but he will cause some real matchup problems for defenses. No linebacker is likely to effectively cover him.

OFFENSIVE LINE: I wish I was Marcus McNeill's agent. The big sophomore tackle is going to make lots of money one day. Senior Mark Pera goes quietly about his business and does his job with cool efficiency. Taylor Bourgeois is going to make a big difference on this team if he can stay healthy. Monreko Crittenden is in the best shape of his career and seems ready for a breakout year. Watch out for freshman Jarrod Britt. He is one tough guy. Freshman King Dunlap may well redshirt this season, but he has a chance to be something special, too. With Ben Nowland gone, the Tigers won't miss a beat at center with Danny Lindsay.

PLACE-KICKER: My educated guess is that freshman John Vaughn will kick field goals inside 40 yards and junior Philip Yost will kick the long ones and will kick off.

DEFENSIVE END: For the past several years, the Tigers have struggled to find depth. That struggle is over. Reggie Torbor, Bret Eddins and Jay Ratliff have plenty of help. Freshman Stanley McClover has been extremely impressive.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE: Same thing as defensive end. There's depth and talent here, too. Senior starters Demarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson are the kind of dominating players that win championships. Look for freshman Tim Duckworth to make an impact, probably sooner than later.

LINEBACKER: It's been a frustrating preseason for linebackers coach Joe Whitt. Dontarrious Thomas went out early with a strained hamstring. His backup, Kevis Burnam, soon followed with a bruised patella tendon. Karlos Dansby is out with a fatigued hamstring and Derrick Graves missed work Thursday after taking a blow to the head. Sophomore Travis Williams has picked up where he left off in the spring. Sophomore Antarrious Williams is fighting hard, playing with a broken bone in his hand. Mayo Sowell has had some good days.

CORNERBACK: This looks to me like an area for concern. Junior Carlos Rogers, a returning starter, hasn't had a dominating camp. He's been beat deep a few times. Junior Rosegreen still seems to be adjusting to the move from safety. Lamel Ages might be the most sound of the bunch, but he is so little that it limits what he can do. Montae Pitts is not ready to be a starter.

SAFETY: Donnay Young seems certain to be the starter on one side. I'd bet on senior Roshard Gilyard on the other, but watch out for sophomore Andrew Letts. A former walk-on, Letts plays the game the old-fashioned way. He is a physical, hard-nosed player. Saturday's scrimmage could go a long way toward determining what happens here.

PUNTER: Toss a coin. Freshman Kody Bliss and redshirt freshman Michael Gibson would appear to be neck and neck. Saturday's scrimmage could be the deciding factor.


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