Lineman Ready At Two Positions

Auburn, Ala.--After spending most of the spring at guard and much of preseason there, too, <b>Monreko Crittenden</b> is back outside at tackle and is the likely starter there for Auburn's football opener vs. Southern Cal.

The junior from Montgomery is projected to be No. 1 at tackle on the tight end side of the formation. Last week, he was locked in a battle for first team status with senior walk-on Ryan Hockett at tight guard. He could still see action there and can also play the other tackle spot where Mark Pera is the likely starter provided he returns this week from a hip flexor injury.

Crittenden was a starter last fall at tackle so that is where he has most of his game experience even though the majority of his practice time this year has been inside. "I was at guard, moved to tackle, went back to guard and now back to tackle so I have had to be pretty versatile," he says.

Since he arrived at Auburn as a freshman, Crittenden has struggled with the heat of two-a-days, but this August was noticeably better for the lineman who has been working this summer to improve his conditioning and keep his weight in check.

"I did pretty good on my dehydration and all of that different stuff," he says. "I only missed one day of practice and I made all of the rest of the 15. I think I made a lot of progress." Crittenden was shut down from practicing by team doctors for one day when he lost more than the 10-pound limit from one morning pre-practice weigh-in to the next.

Keeping his weight in check has always been a major issue with the junior. "Right now, I'm fighting for 330 and that is where I want to stay, but my weight kind of fluctuates," says Crittenden, who weighed more than 350 earlier in his collegiate career. "I am working to try to keep it down."

Crittenden had a solid spring at guard and looked to be a probable starter there before offensive line coach Hugh Nall decided to move him back out to tackle because the coach decided that Crittenden's experience is needed there. Preseason injuries to Mark Pera and Taylor Bourgeois cut the depth at the tackle position, however, both of those should be back to full speed action soon, head coach Tommy Tuberville says.

Crittenden says there is a significant difference in his two assignments. "The tackle position is harder to play because you have to watch a lot more in the defense than you do at guard," he notes. "You have to make a lot of calls, a lot more calls than at guard. My sets are totally different at tackle than they are at guard so I think tackle would be the hardest position to play."

An offeseason in Kevin Yoxall's conditioning program has improved Crittenden's quickness. "I feel like my speed has gotten a lot better," he says. "My footwork has gotten a lot better."

Crittenden's assessment of the 2002 offense is that the Tigers are far from being a finished project, but he says he likes the group's potential. "We have to just keep working hard," he says. "Everybody, from one position to the next, needs to continue working hard and build chemistry."

Crittenden and the Tigers open the football season Sept. 2 in Los Angeles vs. the Southern Cal Trojans.


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