Tigers' Defense To Take A Hit

Auburn is expected to be without two defensive players heading into fall practice.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's defense got a boost last week with the return of linebacker Tray Blackmon to the team but it will apparently take a hit as well as both Patrick Trahan and Greg Smith are both likely academic casualties after the spring semester and will be ineligible this fall to play for the Tigers. Both are expected to stay at Auburn and work to be eligible in 2008.

A redshirt sophomore, Trahan played in all 13 games for the Tigers in 2006 and was Auburn's most productive linebacker during spring practice as he worked his way into the starting spot on the strong side heading into the fall. Without him it leaves the Tigers looking for an answer at linebacker in the second year of coach Will Muschamp's defense.

With Blackmon back in the fold, the sophomore will likely get his first look in the middle of Auburn's defense along with Chris Evans while Merrill Johnson will work on the weak side along with Steve Gandy. Johnson is also capable of playing the middle for the Tigers. On the strong side it is expected that redshirt freshman Craig Stevens will make a move and be the player to beat with Courtney Harden and incoming players Bo Harris and Josh Bynes also possibilities at the position.

Greg Smith is a player that would have added depth for the Tigers this season.

An academic casualty coming out of high school, Smith got to Auburn last fall out of junior college but reported out of shape and was redshirted after not breaking into the playing rotation at defensive tackle. Improving his conditioning over the winter and into the spring, Smith showed signs of life during spring ball but was still a third-team player at best heading into the fall.

Auburn will go into the fall with Josh Thompson and Pat Sims the starters in the middle of the defensive front with Tez Doolittle, Mike Blanc, Jermarcus Ricks and Zach Clayton all in reserve roles.

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