Nashville Tigers: Taylor Bourgeois

<b>Editor's Note: This is the final part of a four-part series on a quartet of redshirt football freshmen from Nashville, Tenn.</b>

Auburn, Ala.--Taylor Bourgeois admits he was not a happy football player when he found out that like most offensive linemen, he would be redshirting as a first year collegian.

"It was good for me, but to be honest I didn't want to be redshirted," Bourgeois says. "I was mad when I found out that I was not going to play last season. Since then I have got my attitude right and realized that was a blessing because I can really see the gains that I have made in the past year with Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) working us out. I am stronger and I am in better shape."

Taylor Bourgeois

With Auburn having to replace three starters on the offensive front, Bourgeois is a player who is expected to make a serious run at starting job at the strongside offensive tackle spot where redshirt sophomore Ryan Broome will enter preseason practice No. 1 on the depth chart ahead of redshirt sophomore walk-on Rich Trucks. However, neither Trucks nor Broome has extensive playing time in college and neither clearly won the starting job in spring training.

Bourgeois was unable to compete against those players in spring drills because he was recovering from shoulder surgery. That shouldn't be a problem with two-a-days start in August.

"I am pretty much full go," Bourgeois tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "My shoulder doesn't bother me much at all other than being a little tight. The doctors did a great job on it."

Taylor Bourgeois drills at the indoor football practice facility.

The big offensive tackle has done more than just recuperate from surgery in the offseason. He has worked at getting bigger and stronger. He is now up to 6-5, 310, which is 30 pounds more than he weighed at this time last year. Even with the extra size, he moves well for an offensive lineman. Head coach Tommy Tuberville says Bourgeois has excellent quickness and is probably the fastest offensive lineman on the team, which is not that surprising because Bourgeois was a defensive tackle in high school at Tennessee prep power Brentwood Academy. Tuberville notes that Bourgeois showed signs last fall that he has the toughness needed to play in the SEC.

"Brentwood is a great football school and it was also a good school for me character-wise," Bourgeois says. "I played for the legendary Coach (Carlton) Flatt and for Coach Tom Moore, too. It is a place where you are expected to be a state champion and that is a great thing."

Brentwood Academy has a history of putting players into the college ranks. Fellow redshirt freshman Jake Slaughter, a fullback, played with Bourgeois for four seasons at the high school in suburban Nashville. Two other Auburn redshirt freshmen are also from the Nashville area--tight end Cooper Wallace and offensive lineman Steven Ross who played at Christ Presbyterian Academy. All four are expected to compete for playing time when two-a-days start in August.

"Jake has been like my brother for the last four or five years," says Bourgeois, who was runnerup for the Division II Mr. Football Award for linemen in Tennessee his senior season. "We became friends in the ninth grade and have been real close ever since. I didn't really know Steven and Cooper in high school. I knew of them and we are good friends now. I am living with Ross. We all hang out together now."

Ross, Wallace and Slaughter all reached independent decisions about coming to Auburn, but each says they are glad to have three other teammates from their hometown. "It makes it a lot easier," Bourgeois says. "Many people when they come here don't know a soul and kind of ball up into a little shell, but I have always had a buddy with me."

Bourgeois (left) has the size and all-around athletic ability to be a successful SEC offensive lineman. He is shown working out with redshirt sophomore Ryan Broome.

All four of the Nashville players say they are eager for the 2002 season to arrive and they have been on campus this summer taking classes and preparing for football. "I am working out five times a week working on speed, strength and agility," Bourgeois notes. "The offensive line as a unit, we get together and try to watch a little film. We can't do a lot without the coaches, but we can work on fundamentals. We work out together as a group at least twice a week and we try to watch film on our own."

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall says that he is eager to see Bourgeois in action in August after the redshirt freshman was unable to go in spring drills. He says Bourgeois showed signs last fall that he is a promising young tackle who could help fill the void on an offensive line that must replace starters Kendall Simmons, Hart McGarry and Mike Pucillo.

"Coach Nall told me that it is all up to me from here on out," Bourgeois says. "He said the opportunity is there for me."

Unlike Ross, whose main position has always been on the offensive line, Bourgeois is still learning the finer points of offensive line play. "There are a lot of things I need to work on fundamentally because I am still pretty young as an offensive linemen because I didn't play there a lot in high school," Bourgeois says. "I am working on pass sets and keeping my feet in the right positions."

With center Ben Nowland and guard Monreko Crittenden, who played tackle last year, the only returning starters, there is concern that the offensive front could be a problem area for the 2002 Tigers. Bourgeois has heard that talk and says he doesn't agree. "We are working hard to make sure that doesn't happen and it is not going to happen," he says.

Bourgeois also says he has high expectations for the team as a whole. "I think we are going to be great this year. A few things have to come together for our offense to gel. I think our defense is going to be strong. I think we have the talent to be real special."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Tom Moore, who coached Bourgeois at Brentwood Academy, has high praise for the big lineman. "Taylor is an excellent athlete for a big man. He was a tight end for us when he started high school so we took advantage of his quickness by using him as a lead blocker when he pulled for us on sweeps. He is an explosive blocker with quick feet. He played some offensive tackle for us and had a great (senior) season on defense, too. He is a very aggressive football player who loves the weights. He has great potential as a Division I offensive line prospect. He was a great person for us at Brentwood both on and off the field."...As a senior, Bourgeois averaged five pancake blocks a game, graded 90 percent and made 82 tackles on defense with seven quarterback sacks.

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