King-Size Tackle Making Move For Playing Time

Redshirt freshman King Dunlap continues to make stride as he prepares for the 2004 football season.

Auburn, Ala.--Tommy Tuberville says the play of offensive tackle King Dunlap has been one of the early highlights of preseason football practice.

Dunlap redshirted last year after arriving on campus as a two-sport star from Brentwood, Tenn., Academy. He immediately began working on his strength and adding weight to prepare himself for the challenge of Southeastern Conference football.

During Auburn's spring training, he played well enough to spend much of the session on the first team at left tackle with returning starter Marcus McNeill limited in what he could do by back problems.

"King did a good job in the spring and has gotten bigger and stronger since then," Tuberville says. "I ran into him on campus a couple of weeks ago and at first I didn't even recognize him he has gotten so big."

Dunlap now checks in at 308 pounds on his six-foot-nine inch frame.

"That redshirt year really helped me out," the tackle says. "I have put on something like 35 pounds since I have been here. It helped me learn the offense even though we got a new offensive coordinator in the spring. I still had the spring and the whole summer.

"I have been working on my playbook and working with Marcus, who is helping me out. I have been learning and learning. I still have a lot to learn."

With Dunlap continuing to grow taller since he signed with the Tigers, Tuberville says that the tackle has grown so tall it makes playing football a challenge in a game in which the old coaching adage that "low man wins" has validity to it, especially when battling other players at the line of scrimmage.

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall talks to Dunlap (77) during practice as offensive guard Jonathan Palmer (79) also listens.

Tuberville says it looks like the big redshirt freshman is learning to keep a low center of gravity while also taking advantage of his extra size and reach.

"I am working on staying low because I am so tall--I am all legs," Dunlap says. "Staying low and keeping my hands inside are important. I have been working on that all summer along with my pass sets out of a three-point stance."

Like the majority of his teammates, Dunlap stayed on campus in June and July. "I was out there all summer on the practice field running all of those 110s with Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall)," he says. "If we are out of shape now, something is wrong."

He says being in good shape has helped him compete hard in workouts. "So far preseason practice has been going well," he says. "I have come out and tried to work hard. I have been trying to fine tune the things I worked on over summer. I am trying to get better and compete."

Even though McNeill has not shown any signs of his back problems in August practices, Dunlap has received plenty of work with the first string in preseason at left tackle. Beginning on Sunday, the coaches began working the redshirt freshman at right tackle.

"It is going okay, but it feels like I am backwards out there right now because I have been playing left tackle all spring and last year, too," Dunlap says. "I know I will get to the point where I can do it. I played a little right tackle in high school, but mainly on the left side. The big thing is to get my footwork down, but I know I can do that."

Dunlap and the other Tigers are running a new system in 2004 that was first installed during spring drills.

"I like our new offense," he says. "Coach (Al) Borges has put in the West Coast Offense. He knows what he is doing. We meet a lot. It seems like we meet forever trying to learn the offense, but personally I like it. We ran this type of offense in high school."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Dunlap moves well for a big tackle and would make an inviting target to throw a pass to this year. Dunlap has already given Borges a hint that he is ready if the coach is. "I suggested a tackle eligible pass play to him this week," Dunlap says with a smile. "I don't think we will, but if we do it will be fun. I think me or Marcus could do it, but if not we will stick to what we do best--getting dirty and doing all of the dirty work."...Dunlap was a good enough basketball player in high school to attract attention from colleges in that sport, but he never gave college basketball serious consideration. He also says he doesn't plan to walk on to the Auburn basketball team this year, which is desperately in need of big men. "I retired from that after we won the state championship game in basketball," he says. "I saw what I weighed on the scales and I was losing too much weight playing basketball."

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