New Offensive Lineman Making Some Noise

Offensive Coordinator Hugh Nall talks about the move of Dexter Murphy has strengthening the second team line.

Auburn, Ala.--Depth on the offensive line has become an obvious concern of late with injuries to several potential players for Coach Hugh Nall. Because of that position moves like Dexter Murphy coming from defense to offense and Steven Ross playing both tight end and tackle have been made to help with the problems. Following a morning practice where the team worked out in shorts and helmets and concentrated on continuing to learn and polish their roles, Nall said he hopes to have a short scrimmage on Tuesday to see his new linemen in action.

"I think we need that," Nall said. "We need another scrimmage, especially now that we've had to make some moves. Moving Steven Ross into the weak tackle position and Dexter into the weak guard position. I'm excited about it. It gives me a pretty good two-deep and those guys need some work. They are one play away from starting. I think Dexter Murphy, as good as he is, will definitely be in a starting role before the year is out if he keeps that up.

"That was part of bringing him over, it's saying ‘hey Dex, I'm not bringing you over to play second team. You'll have to be second team until you learn the plays and learn the calls and communication', but he'll be a starter for us somewhere. He's an experienced kid and has been in the arena. Like I told him, we've got one base rule, they'll have on a different color jersey and go hit somebody. Our center tells him what to do most of the time anyway. There's a kid that will play hard and give us all he's got."

Although he hasn't played the offensive line since starting at guard in the Georgia-Florida All-Star Game following his senior season at LaGrange High, Murphy has already settled in to his role at guard in just two days of work. Showing an aptitude to play the position, Murphy has already caught the eye of Nall, who recruited him to Auburn five years ago.

"He's really good," Nall said of Murphy. "I remember seeing him in high school and seeing him come off the ball in high school. He's just got some natural technique about him offensive line wise. He's got great hands and is shooting his hands and has great feet, and then he's got the quickness I like. That to me is the whole key with offensive line play, it's getting on your blocks quick. He certainly has those quicks to do it with."

One of the leaders of the Tigers in 2003, it took very little time to see just how well respected Murphy is by his teammates. Before Monday morning's practice, the senior was already in the middle of a stretching circle for the offensive line in just his second practice with the unit. Nall said that's just the kind of player and man Murphy is.

"He's done a great job for us on defense," Nall said. "To me he's a team leader. If you look at one kid that you would say everyone looks up to and if everybody played like Dexter Murphy then there is no doubt what would happen this season. He's always full speed. He's just a great kid. He's a simple man that understands the game is full speed. He's going to help us."

Another move made on Monday was getting redshirt freshman Jonathan Palmer some work at tackle. A physical player that has come on strong the last few practices, he has the ability to be a big plus for the Tigers this season because of his versatility.

"He gives us depth at both tackles and both guard positions," Nall said. "He can play all four of those. Marcus is out again today, so that gave us another chance to get more reps there and he did a nice job. They want to hold him out one more practice and he should be back this afternoon."

Working separately in offensive and defensive units, the Tigers spent just over one hour on the practice field running through plays and installing goal line and short yardage packages. Without the pads, Nall said the concentration was very good and the days like Monday have been good for the team.

"It's crucial to show them as many looks as we can, just the recognition of a blitz, a front, of a situation where we're going to check to a full zone instead of a man blocking scheme, it's crucial," Nall said. "I'm loving it. Assignment-wise we've been good all two-a-days and I think that has a lot to do with it."

While the offense had a slightly new look, the defense had some changes as well. The most noticeable was at strong safety where junior Donnay Young worked with the first unit and is the leading candidate to be the starter on opening day because of his coverage skills. At free safety both Will Herring and Karibi Dede are locked in a battle for the starting job with Andrew Letts also in the running.

On the injury front defensive lineman Wayne Dickens sat out the morning practice with a sprained toe, but should return later in the week. When he does he'll likely be at tackle instead of noseguard. The play of true freshman Josh Thompson will give Coach Don Dunn the option to send Dickens back to the tackle position, his natural spot.

The Tigers will practice in full pads Monday afternoon at 4:30 in the final two-a-day practice this fall. Tuesday the team will practice at 4:30 in full pads and may have a short scrimmage to see how the second team players respond. Practices will be closed following Tuesday's workout.

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