Bennett's Injury Means Youth Movement At TE

With tight end Cole Bennett out with a broken bone in his ankle the Auburn Tigers will be young at the position.

Auburn, Ala.--When Cole Bennett left the field Saturday on crutches it was a painful blow to not only to he and his family, but also to the Auburn offense.

Auburn's most experienced player at the position, Bennett is the unquestioned leader of a group of talented tight ends for the Tigers. Position Coach Steve Ensminger says that being without him for up to two months with a broken bone in his ankle is going to be tough to overcome because of what he brings to the table every day.

"Cole is the most physical player we have, which hurts us," Ensminger says. "Cole is the most competent player we have as far as assignments. He doesn't miss an assignment. He knows what to do and makes the calls, you don't have to worry about that.

"From a coaching standpoint there's a trust factor. You know when he's out there that he's going to be in the right place. Is he going to do it perfect every time, no, but you know he's going to be on the right block. That hurts you.

"The other point in his leadership," he adds. "All these young tight ends look up to him. He was their leader in the weight room and everywhere else. He actually taught them and tutored them and everything else. They're going to have to grow up quick."

Without Bennett on the field the Tigers will turn to redshirt freshmen Gabe McKenzie and Tommy Trott to be the main contributors at tight end with an offensive lineman such as Leon Hart possibly moving out in certain formations to become an extra blocker. Ensminger says that they were already counting on the freshmen to deliver, but now things have been taken up several notches with the injury to Bennett.

"They were going to play anyhow this year," Ensminger says. "We just didn't want them to play as many snaps as they had to. After watching the film each of them got about 30 snaps in during the course of the game. They graded out pretty well, assignment-wise especially. That's what you worry about most with young guys is 'does he know where to go?' They know where to go and they're going to give great effort just because of the excitement. They played decent."

Tommy Trott got his first catch this season against LSU, but he should become a bigger part of the offense in the coming weeks.

Another player who could see action for the Tigers is true freshman Michael Goggans from Alexander City. An impressive physical specimen at 6-4, 255, Goggans performed well during preseason camp, but with three tight ends ahead of him he was due a redshirt year. Now that might not be the case. Goggans says that seeing Bennett go down was tough to handle because the senior has been there for him since the beginning.

"That was real tough," Goggans says. "When I saw it happen I knew he was really hurt. That's our only veteran tight end. He showed me the ins and outs of the position. Just to see him go down like that was heartbreaking. I just have to step up and do my job. I'm looking to fill in.

"It's a big change coming from the scout team and moving up with the older guys," he adds. "I just have to fill in from Cole's devastating injury. I just have to move up and play my part and make the team better. Whatever happens happens.

"I was looking forward to the redshirt giving me an extra year, but if I have to come out this year and fill in I will. We're running a lot of two and three tight end sets. I might have to fill in that second or third spot."

Michael Goggans is a member of an impressive looking 2006 Auburn signee class.

Off the scout team Sunday, Goggans worked with the offense during practice and also got some extra work with many of the young players who didn't take part in Saturday's victory over LSU. Ensminger says that they'll continue to work him hard during the week to see if he can help the team beginning this weekend against Buffalo.

"We'll probably start this week on trying to get him ready and see if he's capable," Ensminger says. "Play or not, I don't know. We'll see how he can come. If we feel like he can help us he will play."

While the Tigers will be busy this week getting ready to face the Bulls on Saturday, Bennett will be having surgery to repair the broken bone in his ankle. That will take place Monday and then the grueling rehab will begin for the senior to try to get back as soon as possible. Ensminger says that Bennett is taking things well and it won't surprise him in the least to see the big tight end back on the field before this season is done.

"He's hanging in there but it's tough for him because football means a lot to him," Ensminger says. "He takes everything seriously. He graduated in three and a half years, but football means a lot to him. We said we'll see what happens this week and we'll see where we're at. Then we'll plan for the weeks to come."

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