That is the problem facing defensive ends Coach Terry Price so far this preseason. With the most numbers of any position coach before practice began, Price has been reduced to as few as three full speed players at times because of minor injuries to veterans on both the left and right sides. With Bret Eddins (ankle), Stanley McClover (hamstring), Doug Langenfeld (hip flexor and ankle) and Marquies Gunn (hamstring) all out at some time or another this preseason, the job has fallen to sophomore transfer Christopher Browder and freshmen Quentin Groves and Neil Brown.
AU coaches are hoping Browder will be a three-year contributor for the Tigers.
With all three having played different positions last season, Browder at outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment at junior college, the group was expected to ease into playing this season. Injuries have made that virtually impossible though and Price said that all three have shown him something because of the work they've put in during preseason practices.
"They're probably the only guys on the defensive line that have never missed a day of practice since two-a-days started," Price said. "They have gone every rep, they've actually had to go more than their share of reps. Sometimes two or three series in a row because they're the only guys that have survived without injuries. I'm proud of them. I've pushed them and they've pushed themselves. Because of that they've all improved from day one to now. Hopefully, they'll be able to help us this fall."
While most players will admit that they don't mind doing extra work if needed, you get the sense that Browder really means it when he tells you that he'll do whatever it takes to get on the field for the Tigers this fall.
"It doesn't really matter to me," Browder said. "As hard as I've worked to get here, the little stuff that we do now is just a breeze."
After signing with Alabama out of Wilcox-Central High, Browder failed to qualify and went to Mississippi to junior college with the hopes of getting back to the SEC in two years. After redshirting his first season, Browder made his dreams a reality by working hard on his academics as a sophomore. When it came time to sign with a school Browder chose Auburn after Coach Joe Whitt kept up with his progress despite him signing with the Crimson Tide.
When he arrived on the Auburn campus this summer Browder said that he didn't really know what to expect, but quickly adjusted to the lower key summer lifestyle with fewer students around. Weighing just 220 pounds, he got to work on getting bigger and he said that things are much different now just a few months removed from when he got to the Plains.
"When I first got here there weren't very many people," Browder said. "The players were here, but they were spread out. Now all the team is together and being able to interact with all my teammates is just great.
"There have been a lot of changes," Browder added. "The atmosphere with all the students, the different styles of coaching, everything about the campus and living arrangements, everything is different than it was this summer. I eat better here than I did at junior college. I'm getting bigger every day and putting on weight."
Pushing the 240-pound barrier on his 6-5 frame, Browder said that he feels much better about himself following a summer of workouts with Coach Kevin Yoxall. Working all summer to get prepared to put his hand on the ground, Browder said that he felt like once he could get to Auburn that the lack of weight on his big frame would take care of itself.
"I knew I was going to be able to put on some weight once I started eating right," Browder said. "The coaches, the staff, and Coach Yox have just been telling me to eat right and the weight would come. Coach Yox works us hard. No matter what you do he's always going to demand you give him your all in everything you've got."
Always dominant on the football field because of his combination of size, speed and athletic ability, Browder has found the transition to be easier than most coming from a junior college. Despite being worn down in every practice because of the extra work, he said that he knows it's going to pay off down the road both for him and the 2004 Tigers.
"It's real tough," Browder said. "But the coaches put it in your head that you can overcome it if you keep working hard, keep pushing and use the techniques that they've taught us. The physical part is going to come naturally. You just have to keep going."