Berry Ready If Needed

True freshman offensive lineman Mike Berry has been one of the biggest surprises in an extremely talented 2006 signee class. He has not played this season, but there is still a possibility that he may be forced into action down the stretch.

Auburn, Ala.--Ben Tate was forced to burn his redshirt season against Tulane because of injuries at the tailback position, and offensive lineman Mike Berry hopes the same thing doesn't happen to him. With Joe Cope still being held out of action because of an injured knee and the status of his replacement Jason Bosley uncertain but not looking good, Berry could be just one injury from being thrown into the action.

Jonathan Palmer is the likely center against Ole Miss, but if he gets hurt then there will be a difficult decision to make by offensive line coach Hugh Nall.

"I guess I'll be second team," Berry says. "I know coach Nall doesn't want to put me in there unless he has to because obviously he wants to redshirt me and get another year. If J.P. were to go down or something, I don't know what would happen.

"Last game for instance, even though Bosley goes down J.P. goes in so I don't have to waste a year," he adds. "If he goes down then I don't know how they'd work it. They might have Ben (Grubbs) start to take some snaps. Worst case scenario I have to go in. Anything to help out the team would be a good thing, but sometimes is happens that way. I wouldn't be that mad."

Berry, who played tackle at Auburn pipeline Brentwood Academy, has worked at center, guard and tackle during his brief time at Auburn. He practiced mostly tackle this fall but was moved back to center with Cope suffering his injury against South Carolina.

"Snaps aren't really a problem, it's just getting my footwork down at center," he notes. "At the beginning of the summer before I got down here I started working at center, which kind of helped me a little bit. It's all new to me. I've got everything down now as far as the playbook."

Berry has the size and the footwork to play any position on the line, and he has also shown dedication and eagerness to learn.

Berry came into camp this summer at 330 pounds, but has been on a weight-loss program and is just five pounds over his target weight of 315. His future at Auburn might be at right tackle, but he says he likes playing guard the best.

"I'm not going to lie, I really don't care too much for center," he explains. "If I had to pick one I'd say guard. You get to pull a lot more. I kind of like doing that. Plus at center, it's kind of hard because I can't really come off the ball like I want to because you have to snap the ball. I'm still working on that."

Berry has dressed for the home games this year, but has also been going through the dreaded redshirt workouts with coach Kevin Yoxall.

"On home games we have two redshirt workouts on Friday and Saturday," Berry says. "On away games we only have Friday because he (Yoxall) goes with the team. We've got this thing called board pushes. Basically it's a two by four, and in the redshirt workouts you've got to push it 20 yards. We do three sets of eight. If everybody isn't getting it done you just keep going. For like two hours you just keep going.

"That's probably the hardest thing I've done," he adds. "There are a lot of people throwing up. You've just got to push it on the ground. You're bent over the whole time and then it's at 5:30 in the morning, so you know how that is."

Auburn's 2006 signee classes was one of the best in the country with one five-star player in Bart Eddins and eight four-star recruits who reported to camp in August. Berry was a three-star but immediately turned heads with his surprising quickness at 330 pounds during preseason practices. With several injuries to the offensive line he had an opportunity to run with the first team at times.

Despite the level of talent of the class coming in just two players--Tate and defensive tackle Jermarcus Ricks--cannot redshirt at this point. Berry may join that small list if injuries force him to, but he says he has been impressed with his fellow freshmen who have worked on the scout team.

"Our recruiting class was good coming in, but we've gotten so much better," Berry says. "The talent is there so we're just improving on things. Basically they're going to redshirt everyone but Ben Tate and Jake (Ricks). We've got the talent, so we've got to make it happen.

"Mario (Fannin) is just an all-around talent. Mario, Craig Stevens, Tim (Hawthorne)," Berry adds. "They're some big guys right there. I like our chances in the future. As far as most improvement, I'd say (Byron) Isom. He's switched positions (to guard) and he's picking up everything real fast. Coach Nall is loving it. He comes off the ball and he's one of the best as far as getting off the ball. He's still working on his pass sets and all of that, but he's going to be real good."

Kickoff for No. 7 Auburn at unranked Ole Miss is set for 11:30 p.m. CST.

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