Linemen Bringing The Lumber

A group of freshmen offensive linemen talk about their experiences this summer and their thoughts on the coming season.

Auburn, Ala.--There is no doubt about it. When someone visited one local Auburn hardware store this summer, they were in for a special treat. A trio of freshmen offensive linemen, in town to work out with the team, worked together to make enough money to stay at a local motel and train with strength and conditioning coaches on the Auburn campus.

Marcus McNeill, Jonathan Palmer and Troy Reddick, probably the three biggest summer employees in the Auburn area, spent their time between workouts and meetings carrying the load and McNeill for one says that he's not looking forward to doing that ever again.

Reddick (66), Palmer (79) and McNeill (73) are shown at a freshman practice.

"I had never had a job before," the 6-9, 347-pound McNeill says. "For me to get a job at a warehouse at Waid True Value, that was probably the toughest thing I could ever do. We toted sheet rock, shingles, doors, everything...it really makes you want to go get your degree from school because you don't want to do that."

Reddick, who is smaller but not small at 6-5, 310 pounds, says the experience was a good one for him because it allowed him to get closer and become friends with two guys he hopes to be playing alongside for the next four years.

"Me and the two guys from Cedar Grove (McNeil and Palmer) were up here together and we worked together actually," Reddick says. "We would go to workouts, go to work together and then come back and go to meetings in the evening. We pretty much bonded doing that."

Troy Reddick

While the trio was busy doing manual labor, the freshmen also had time to get acquainted with future teammates during a tougher than normal summer workout regimen. In addition to the workouts, the offensive linemen as a group got together at least a couple of times each week to practice their footwork and line calls. Palmer says this experience was invaluable to the young linemen.

"It was very important because it gave me a chance to see what the system was," says the 6-5, 320 Palmer, who will get his first look at strong guard. "That made it so August 4 I could go through the motions without having to think about it too much. It gave me a chance to see what the other offensive linemen were bringing to the table. It gave me an idea of what I needed to do with my game to play this year."

His former high school teammate agrees. "We didn't really get too much into the offensive schemes, but we got our fundamentals down and our steps so we will know what to do when we get on the field," McNeill says. "We have that out of the way and the next part during two-a-days is going to be learning the plays and getting them down. It's just the learning part of it I guess."

Marcus McNeill listens to instructions from Hugh Nall.

While the summer wasn't a vacation, all three say that they were willing to put up with anything in order to have a realistic shot at playing this fall. With the backup spots up in the air at all five offensive line spots and a couple of starting roles still in doubt all say they believe they have what it takes to play right away."

"I learn fast and my technique has been up there close to the college level anyway because I've been going to camps every summer since I've been in high school," Reddick notes. "I don't think it will be too hard for me to step in and get in the rotation. I don't expect to redshirt. I should be at the two spot at weak tackle going into the season. I'm very aggressive. I wasn't as strong in the weight room as a lot of other guys, but I was more aggressive and I played hard and played stronger than they did. I still feel that I play quicker than a lot of guys also."

Marcus McNeill (73) walks with freshman center Will Ward (63).

Now the trio, along with center Will Ward, is getting a chance to show offensive line coach Hugh Nall what they can do prior to the start of full squad pratices, which start at 7 a.m. on Thursday. Reddick says he realizes that the Nall he sees this week will be a little different than the one he's known up to this point. "It's still early so he's still kind of a nice guy right now," Reddick says with a smile. "But I get the sense that Coach Nall is a hard-nosed kind of guy and some of the other players tell me that. I couldn't play under a soft offensive line coach so I knew that he was going to be a hard-nosed coach and I'm glad."


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