Offensive Depth Chart A Blend of Old and New

A look at Auburn's offensive depth chart is featured as the Tigers prepare for spring drills.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn heads into spring practice with a lot of well-known names on the top of the depth chart with a blend of experienced and young players trying to get there.

Offensively, junior Brandon Cox returns as the starter at quarterback and his two top backups return as redshirt sophomores--Blake Field and Calvin Booker.

"We are looking for Brandon to make a lot of improvement this season," says offensive coordinator Al Borges. "He has the potential to do that."

Borges notes that he will also be looking for significant improvement from Field, who is expected to be challenged by Booker, who the coach says will be given the opportunity to compete for the No. 2 spot when spring practices start on Tuesday.

The Tigers return the All-SEC tailback with Kenny Irons back for one more season. He is expected to see scrimmage action this spring while the backups get more carries. That group includes Brad Lester, Tre Smith and true freshman Ben Tate, along with Carl Stewart, who swings between tailback and fullback.

With starting fullback Jake Slaughter needing to be replaced, redshirt sophomore Mike McLaughlin opens the spring No. 1 on the depth chart ahead of Andrew Turman, Stephen Gowland and Danny Perry, who is making the move there from tight end.

At left tackle, junior King Dunlap starts spring No. 1 where Marcus McNeill was an All-American last year. Redshirt freshman Oscar Gonzalez is running second string.

Leon Hart (72) and King Dunlap (77) are being counted on to become key players this season.

At right tackle, junior Leon Hart is No. 1 ahead of Antwoin Daniels, a redshirt sophomore. Troy Reddick, a senior, was the starter there last season.

At right guard, Tim Duckworth is a returning starter who is backed up by walk-on sophomore Nathan Farrow, who is making the move from defense. Duckworth will see only limited work this spring as a senior as he recovers from a knee problem that bothered him last season.

At left guard, senior Ben Grubbs is the returning starter and Tyronne Green is running number two.

There is major rebuilding to do in the receiver corps. Starting tight end Cooper Wallace has graduated. Senior Cole Bennett moves up as the No. 1 man at that position with a pair of talented redshirt freshmen, Tommy Trott and Gabe McKenzie, eager to show what they can do.

The Tigers return one standout receiver, senior Courtney Taylor, who is backed up by redshirt freshman Montez Billings.

At another wide receiver spot, sophomore Robert Dunn begins the spring number one ahead of Rodgeriqus Smith, Anthony Campbell and walk-on Jim Reed. Campbell is making a move from cornerback as a redshirt sophomore.

The Tigers lost three senior players who were key contributors at receiver. Ben Obomanu, Devin Aromashodu and Anthony Mix will be missed.

Prechae Rodriguez contributed last fall in his first season at Auburn.

One player who could soften the blow is junior Prechae Rodriguez, who is atop the depth chart at the other receiver spot ahead of senior Lee Guess, sophomore James Swinton and redshirt freshman Ulysses Alexander.

One of the most interesting battles on offense this year should be at center where seniors Joe Cope and Jonathan Palmer are listed as co-number ones. Cope is the returning starter, but Palmer played very well at the position vs. Alabama when Cope was injured. Jason Bosley is listed third on the depth chart.

Last spring, Tuberville was concerned about replacing 2004 senior stars Jason Campbell at quarterback and Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown at running back. A year later, the coach says he feels much better about those positions.

"We now know what our running backs can do," he says. "We are not going into the spring or the season with an inexperienced quarterback, but we are going in with new wide receivers other than basically Courtney. We will rely on throwing the football, but we want to go into the spring knowing when we come out our defense has seen a lot of running plays run at them and our offense has had an opportunity to come off the football and move the ball on the ground.

"Last year, we weren't as good as we needed to be in the red zone. We had to throw the ball a little bit more and that is a direct correlation to not having that hard-nose philosophy and so our offensive coaches have to go back to that and put a nose to it. Once your players understand that, it is a lot easier to teach, but you have got to get that over to them first. We want to be able to run the football here at Auburn."

A key for the running game to develop will be for the new starting tackles to step up and have good seasons. Tuberville says he is optimistic that can happen.

"It is a pretty good scenario," the coach says. "King Dunlap has played quite a bit. He will be our left guy. Leon Hart is playing our right side. Both of those guys have played quite a bit of football for us. When you look at them, both are more athletic than the guys who just left us. They are not as experienced and not quite as strong physically, but they can get to that mentality."

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