In Auburn's 28-0 win over Mississippi State, Dunlap saw action on the third series of the game and was in for about 30 snaps. He played both left tackle and right tackle. That number of snaps is likely to increase this Saturday against Ball State because of a knee injury to first-team tackle Marcus McNeill.
"Marcus will be back practicing Tuesday so he'll most likely be starting, but who knows," Dunlap says. "It depends on how his leg does during the week. As far as I know he'll be in the same rotation."
Even if McNeill is able to play on Saturday, the Tigers should be heavy favorites which means more time for the reserves. Dunlap adds that he may have a chance to play close to 50 snaps.
The 6-9, 305-pound sophomore tackle was a basketball standout at Brentwood, Tenn., High and was offered a hoops scholarship to a few colleges like Belmont and Lipscomb. His height and athleticism are two of his strong points on both the hardwood and the football field which is why he has become one of the better pass blockers on the team.
"Being 6-9 and having long arms is definitely an advantage in pass blocking," he says. "Coaches tell me all the time that I've got to use my long arms and leverage. That helps keep guys away from me and gives me more time to react."
Even though Dunlap has made steady progress since arriving in 2003, he adds that he must keep getting more aggressive and better with his run blocking.
"Since my freshman year I know I've come a long way," he says. "I've put on some weight, gotten a lot stronger, and I've picked up the game physically and mentally. I picked it up physically my redshirt freshman year. This past year I picked it up mentally so now I think I've got everything I need to go out there and play and be successful.
"Right now I need to work on my run blocking and keeping my hands inside when I come off, because I have the tendency to get my hands out wide," Dunlap adds. "My biggest thing is staying low. I'm so tall out there against the shorter guys and I've got to work on keeping my hips down and staying low."
As long as Dunlap continues to progress as a blocker he will in all likelihood be a starter in 2006 after McNeill and Troy Reddick finish their eligibility. Even though Dunlap has had to wait his time behind the two seniors, he says they are part of the reason why he has become a better football player.
"I've been watching Marcus ever since I got here," Dunlap says. "Even though I was playing right side a lot I watched Marcus and what he does. He's helped me out a lot technique-wise and play-wise, everything mentally and physically. Since I've been here I've just kind of looked up to him. Next year after he leaves I'll have to step up there and take his role."
While McNeill's status for the Ball State game is still uncertain, Dunlap says he's preparing himself in practice for both a starting role or a reserve role against the Cardinals.
"Running with the ones and twos to us isn't really any different," he says. "We always have an up tempo practice whether it's ones or two and everybody's going hard. We're working just as hard on the second group as they are on the first group. Working with the ones in practice is just like working with the twos because we all go hard."