Tigers Cope-ing With Changes On O-Line

Auburn returned to the practice field Sunday with the job of finding a center to replace senior Joe Cope.

Auburn, Ala.--For the second consecutive season the Auburn Tigers are looking for a replacement for center Joe Cope after an injury suffered during the South Carolina game has sidelined the senior for up to six weeks. The auditions began on Sunday as the Tigers practiced for nearly two hours in shorts and shoulder pads to prepare for Arkansas.

With Cope definitely out this week and likely out for several more weeks, Coach Hugh Nall looked at several different combinations during Sunday's practice. Sophomore Jason Bosley as well as seniors Jonathan Palmer and Ben Grubbs will all be given reps at center this week with Bosley the likely first choice. Coach Al Borges says that Bosley has prepared well for this moment and is the best choice for the Tigers.

"Jason Bosley (worked with the first team)," Borges says. "He did a good job when Joe got hurt during two-a-days. He filled in for it must have been two weeks and he did a heck of a job. He grew up during that time and I think he's ready to play. He'll have little growing pains here and there but he's a pretty reliable kid, a smart kid."

While Bosley doesn't have the size or experience of either Palmer or Grubbs, he has been the second-team center for the Tigers since two-a-days and is very well versed in Auburn's offensive plans. Borges says that both Palmer and Grubbs will work at center this week but Bosley is the man at the moment and he's very capable of doing the job Cope did but it's not easy shoes to fill.

"The biggest thing about Joe is you lose his leadership and toughness," Borges says. "That's painful because he's a smart kid and he's tough. He really has taken charge of our offensive line. That's the most painful part of losing Joe."

Borges says that Jonathan Palmer will work as the number two center with Ben Grubbs as the emergency guy in the third spot.

On the injury front the Tigers are in relatively good shape with the exception of Cope's sprained knee. Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite continues to rehab his injured hamstring and should be available this weekend against the Razorbacks. Tailback Kenny Irons is still a little banged up but practiced on Sunday. The same is true of quarterback Brandon Cox. Borges says the junior is moving around very good after another bump suffered Thursday night.

"He looked better today than I've seen him in three weeks," Borges says of Cox. "Like he needs another injury but he got another bump or bruise but he's better today than I have seen him in three weeks. I think he got hit in the thigh but he's okay."

Defensively the Tigers began to work on Arkansas while also working on the mistakes from Thursday night's game against South Carolina. Coordinator Will Muschamp says that the team got the week off to a good start with a very solid Sunday workout.

"We had a good day today," Muschamp says. "It was a good physical day. It was real good to have two days off for everybody. We had a real good physical day and that's what it's going to take this week."

The Tigers will take Monday off before returning to work Tuesday morning for the Razorbacks. Kickoff for Saturday's game is scheduled for 11 a.m. and can be seen nationally on CBS.


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