Auburn coaches decided at the end of spring practice to give Ross a try at the position after earlier moving the 2003 starter at center, Danny Lindsey, to guard. Ross goes into preseason drills in August as the likely backup at center to senior Jeremy Ingle.
"I think it was a step to get more depth at the position," Ross says. "A few years ago while I was still in high school, (Auburn) went through five centers in one season. All of sudden every one of them seemed to get hurt throughout the year so with three or four days left of spring practice they just threw me in there and let me give it a shot."
The shot looks like it will pay off and Ross says he hopes that center is where he will stay for the rest of his time at Auburn. The six-foot-six junior is up seven pounds from the spring to 282 and is part of an offensive line group that AU players and coaches are hoping will be improved this season.
Ross wore No. 80 when he was playing tight end for the Tigers.
"This is the first time since I have been here where we've had a good enough two-deep that we can play 10 offensive linemen each game," Ross says. "It will be that more to our advantage to be able to have five fresh guys coming in."
Ross was a productive player in high school at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville where he played guard and tackle as well as defense on a state championship team. However, he lined up at center only briefly, but the thought did cross his mind that he could make that move as a collegian.
"I thought it was a possibility," Ross says. "My high school coach always said my ticket was at center. I played it very briefly in high school. It was a week or so my freshman year. Other than that, I played guard or tackle. I never really thought about playing center, but it has become my chance to get on the field."
Though now on his fourth position at Auburn, Ross says the transition to center hasn't been daunting. "It wasn't too bad," he says. "The blocking is easier than it was at tackle.
"The mental aspect of it, having to make split second decisions, making checks, all the recognition and everything you have got to do, is obviously tougher than tackle, but that just comes with the territory," Ross notes. "It is something I am learning and trying to get to be where it is second nature."
After last season's high expectations and disappointments for the Auburn football team, Ross says that the offense, under the direction of new coordinator Al Borges, is ready to achieve better things in 2004.
"I think we've got a lot of talent and we're looking forward to the fall," he says. "It goes pretty much the same every year. As soon as the season is over, you're building and really getting excited for next year. If all the media are saying you're going to have a good team then it puts a little more pressure on you and puts you a little more in the limelight. Expectations are high always. It comes with being a big SEC school. We've got a chance to have a great team and we just have to capitalize on it."
Ross says he and the other offensive players are encouraged about what they have seen of their new offensive system from Borges. "It's going pretty well," he says. "He came in and hit the ground running and we've learned a lot of things. Fortunately, he didn't change the running game very much at all. He adapted to our terminology so we didn't have to start from square one. We've kept a lot of the same running game stuff. There have been a few tweaks here and there.
"The passing game is a little different, but I guess it will be more of a difference of philosophies than it was last year," Ross says. "Some of the routes are obviously different, but the protections, which are all that matters to the offensive line, are pretty much the same."
Ross says he believes center will turn out to be his favorite position. "I really enjoyed the last three or four days in the spring," he says. "We were really getting into the scrimmages at that point. It's a lot of fun. You're right in the middle of things. It is really up-tempo. You are making a lot of communications really fast right at the line. You have got to be a quick thinker and have your head on a swivel to spot certain things."
Even though he is competing for playing time with Ingle, Ross says the senior has been giving him pointers on how to play center. "He has helped me a lot," Ross says. "We are both working really hard and trying to get ready for the fall."