Walk-on Making Strong Move For Playing Time

A walk-on lineman and his teammates will try to impress the coaches in a Saturday football scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--Although the highly-regarded freshmen and other offensive linemen have received more attention, one of the most interesting stories on the Auburn offense is the emergence of walk-on senior Ryan Hockett.

Hockett and Tigers had a light workout on Friday evening in preparation for a big scrimmage on Saturday at the intramural fields. The practice starts at 9 a.m. and the scrimmage is expected to begin about an hour later.

The Friday evening workout that featured light rain was a walk in the park compared to an intense Friday morning session in full pads. Tommy Tuberville says he reversed the normal schedule of having the heavier practice in the evening to give the players extra time to rest for the Saturday scrimmage. "They will have almost 24 hours of time to recover before the scrimmage."

Ryan Hockett takes a break during Friday evening's practice.

In his second season as a college offensive guard after originally transferring from Florida's Jacksonville University to try to play on the Auburn defensive line, Hockett has done more than just win the respect of Tuberville and offensive line coach Hugh Nall. Hockett has spent a considerable portion of spring drills running number one at tight guard on the depth chart. Tuberville says the walk-on has a legitimate chance to start this fall.

"Practice has been going really well," says Hockett, who has been battling Monreko Crittenden for first string status. Crittenden is now getting work at tackle, too. Freshman tackle Marcus McNeill is now getting practice time at the tight guard spot where Hockett is currently number one.

"There is a lot of learning and hard work taking place," Hockett says. "I am just trying to keep going hard. I have been learning my technique and staying motivated."

This is Hockett's second season as a Tiger after deciding to transfer from Jacksonville University to see if he could handle the challenge of SEC football. As a bonus, he gets to play with his former high school teammate, Ben Nowland, the starting center. There is a possibility they could be starting side by side. "That would be great," Hockett says. "Just like old times."

Hockett is considered a bit undersized by current SEC standards. He says he is fluctuating between 290 and 295 pounds in the heat of two-a-days. "I will probably get back to 300 once two-a-days slows down, so I think that will be about right." In contrast, freshman McNeil is about seven inches taller and 50-60 pounds heavier at 6-9, 347.

Nall has praise for Hockett. "He is the starting strong guard for us now," Nall says. "He is a great kid who works hard. He is limited a little bit with his size, but he makes up for it with his effort and want-to. He is doing a real good job and is a great kid."

Tuberville says, "He will fight you and will give you all he has got. " The head coach adds that a guy Hockett's size has to give full effort and have good technique. "When you are having to block those 320-pound athletes on the other side, you better know what you are doing."

Hockett says he believes his strength is run blocking. He notes that pass blocking is what he is concentrating on improving this preseason. "That is something that takes time and I just need to keep working hard at it," he says.

Until making the move from defense last season, Hockett had not played on the offensive line since he was playing with Nowland at Nease High School where he went both ways as a defensive end and offensive tackle. "When I was first moved to offense I was concerned about it because I hadn't played offense since 1997 and that was only high school so I wasn't for sure what to do," Hockett says.

After graduating at Nease, he played for the Jacksonville Dolphins. "I played my first two college years, 1998 and 1999, at Jacksonville. I played defensive tackle there. I started both years and did real well. It has always been a dream of mine to play Division I football. That was a goal of mine. I've been talking to Ben and he let me know what was going on up here. I came up and decided to walk on and I have enjoyed it a lot."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Hockett says he is upbeat about the 2002 season for the Tigers, who open Sept. 2nd at Southern Cal. "I've got a really good feeling. We're sticking together and keeping strong. I think good things will happen."...Tuberville says he plans to really push the Tigers hard next week during one-a-day practices and won't back off until a little more than a week before the opener. "The next eight or nine days they are fixing to find out what playing tired is about," the coach adds...Tuberville is expected to announce who won the battle for the starting quarterback job this weekend or shortly after it. Daniel Cobb, who was behind the the battle earlier in the week, is making a comeback in his bid to win the No. 1 spot. The battle continues at Saturday's practice which will feature what is expected to be the only major scrimmage of the preseason. The scrimmage is expected to run about 60 plays with an additional 30 plays working on the two-minute drill.

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