2004 Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

Coach Hugh Nall talks about the challenges facing his unit this spring as they try to replace two starters and learn a new system.

Auburn, Ala.--Back in his customary offensive line position after doing double-duty as offensive line coach and offensive coordinator last season, Coach Hugh Nall has a big task ahead of him this spring trying to replace departed starters Mark Pera and Monreko Crittenden as well as get everyone up to speed on the new offense being installed by coordinator Al Borges.

With the some talented returnees and the possibility of building enough depth to get the job done, Nall says that the first order of business is going to be adjusting to some changes in the offense.

"The first thing we're going to do is we're not going to flip our line," Nall says. "It's going to be a right side and left side instead of a strong and weak side. Doing that the left tackle position is open and the right guard position is open.

"A lot of the terminology will be the same, but some of it is different," he adds. "There will be a new group playing together in a new system. We've tried to keep as much of the terminology as similar as we can."

Going into spring practice Nall says that his first five will be Troy Reddick at left tackle, moving from his guard spot, Jonathan Palmer at left guard, Jeremy Ingle at center, Danny Lindsey at right guard and Marcus McNeill at right tackle.

"I thought Jeremy Ingle came on and did some very good things for us at center last year," Nall says. "Right now in my mind that's possibly the best five. I don't know that, but we'll see.

"I know he can play guard," Nall says of Reddick. "I'm a little bit concerned about our tackle depth so I'm going to try him out there for a while. Whether he's out there next fall, I don't know that. At least I'll have that option should I need it."

Marcus McNeill is back for his third season as a starter at tackle for the Tigers.

The second offensive line will consist of mostly inexperienced players. At left tackle to begin spring practice is King Dunlap, left guard is Ben Grubbs, center is Will Ward, right guard is Jarrod Britt and right tackle is Steven Ross. Nall says all have the ability to make a move, but he's particularly intrigued by getting to work with the former tight end and defensive lineman in Grubbs.

"To me the guy you want at your guards are guys that can really run and are strong pullers and quick guys," Nall says. "I think Ben definitely fits that mold that you want there. He's also the kind of athlete, ability-wise, that could play the tackle also. Yet, I think there are some fundamentals of offensive line play that he needs to learn before we put him out in space.

"It's a lot easier to teach a kid the guard position and give him a chance to be successful at guard instead of throwing him out there at tackle. There's another guy you'll see me working at tackle some as the spring goes on. He's a very talented kid that has a chance to be a good player."

Junior Danny Lindsey will make the move to guard this spring, but he will continue to work at center with the second team along with Will Ward.

One thing is for certain this spring, Nall says. No job returning starter's job is safe under the eyes of Nall and offensive line assistant Patrick Moore. The tight ends coach last season, Moore is in his second as the offensive graduate assistant and is known for working his players hard just like Nall.

"I'm in the search of finding the best five and it doesn't matter who those guys are or what side they are playing on," Nall says. "That's especially true coming out of last year because they played both sides by flipping the line. The two-deep will be up in the air every day and every play as to who's the starting five and who's not. If the second team left guard is better than the first team right tackle then he'll move to right tackle and vice versa.

"The biggest thing is to find the five I think can start and getting those guys to play together," Nall adds. "There is going to be a lot of inexperience. There will be more depth than we've had, which is a positive, but I think there is a lot of unknown with the offensive line this year."

Others to watch for on the line in the spring are senior Thomas Anderson, senior Rich Trucks walk-on Joe Cope.

Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a series of previews on spring football 2004.

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