2009 Spring Football Preview: Offensive Line

Continuing our look at the Auburn Tigers heading into spring football practice, the offensive line is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--While the new offensive system under Gus Malzahn and the quarterback battle will get much of the attention during Auburn's first spring football practice under Gene Chizik, how the offensive line shakes out and develops may be the biggest question mark of all on offense.

Coaching the position is Jeff Grimes in his first season at Auburn. Coming to the Tigers from Colorado, Grimes has a long history of producing quality offensive linemen dating back to his days as an assistant at BYU, Arizona State and Boise State. While the numbers aren't great, Grimes has a solid core of experienced players to work with in his first spring on the Plains.

Losing seniors Jason Bosley and Tyronne Green off last year's team, Auburn returns four players who started games for the Tigers up front led by junior left tackle Lee Ziemba. A starter in all 25 games for the Tigers since he arrived on campus, Ziemba underwent knee surgery following the 2008 season after playing through pain much of the year. He should be ready to go in the spring and is the heavy favorite to be the left tackle heading into fall practice.

Ryan Pugh played some center last season for the Tigers.

The other position with a heavy favorite to win the job going into the spring is at center where junior Ryan Pugh returns after starting four games there for the Tigers last season while also playing right tackle. Players aslo expected to get some work at the position include juniors Bart Eddins and Mike Berry.

Both Eddins and Berry are players to watch for in the spring at the guard position as Berry was a part-time starter on the right side along with fellow junior Byron Isom. The combination of Berry and Isom started all 12 games for Auburn last season while Eddins saw some time inside.

Sophomore Jared Cooper could also get a look at the guard position, but may get his first shot at right tackle. Juniors Kyle Coulahan and Darrell Roseman are back this season and could get a look inside at one of the guard positions as well.

Byron Isom split time at right guard with Mike Berry last season.

That's because the right tackle spot is the biggest question mark on the offensive line for the Tigers heading into spring practice. With last season's starter Pugh moving back to his natural position at center, it leaves the job wide open for a long list of candidates. At the top of the pack could be senior Andrew McCain and sophomore A.J. Greene. Both played the position last season in a back up capacity and could be the first to get a look in the spring.

Andrew McCain has the talent to be a good player if he steps up in the spring.

They likely won't be the only players to see some time at right tackle though as Cooper and Berry both have worked at tackle during their careers at Auburn as well as Eddins. With five bodies to work with Grimes will have 15 practice days in the spring to find a pecking order at right tackle and all the offensive line positions heading into fall practice in August.

The Tigers will wrap up the spring on April 18 at the annual A-Day Game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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