Auburn Spring Football Preview: O-Line

We take a look at the offensive line positions for the Auburn Tigers heading into spring practice.

Auburn, Ala.--Going into the 2009 season Auburn's primary goal up front on the offensive line was finding someone to step up and take over at right tackle after working through several people at the position the previous season.

This spring that will again be the goal as Andrew McCain is gone after starting all 13 games for the Tigers last season and doing an admirable job in his first year as the starter.

With four starters returning the nucleus is back for an offensive line that helped Auburn to one of its best offensive seasons in school history last year. The Tigers averaged 33.3 points per game, which was an increase of 16 points over the 2008 season, but it wasn't just scoring that showed improvement.

For the year Auburn had 266 first downs (#2 in school history), 2,756 rushing yards (#7 in school history), 2,857 passing yards (#5 in school history), 5,613 yards of total offense (#1 in school history), and 914 plays (#1 in school history). Much of that was because of a veteran offensive line that allowed the offense to take shape.

Senior Mike Berry is a key player for the Tigers as he's capable of playing all five positions on the line.

At left tackle Lee Ziemba is back this spring after starting all 13 games last season. In his career Ziemba has started all 38 games and earned Freshman All-American honors in 2007. Stronger and healthier after having knee surgery following his sophomore season, Ziemba had a solid 2009 season.

Both starting guards are back as well with juniors Mike Berry and Byron Isom very experienced as well with 21 and 18 starts respectively. They should be a force in the middle of the Auburn offensive line. In the middle Ryan Pugh returns to complete the foursome after his first season as the full-time center last year. He has 31 career starts in his first three seasons.

Center Ryan Pugh is a key returning starter for the Tigers up front.

The only returning player with experience at the tackle position is sophomore A.J. Greene and he played only sparingly in a back up role last season. Expected to be the major contenders at the position are a pair of junior college transfers Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley who will go through spring practice after enrolling in January.

A 6-7, 310-pounder from College of the Sequoias junior college in California, Gayden is physically imposing and could be the immediate answer at right tackle. He'll likely have a challenge coming from Mosley though. A tight end/offensive lineman, Mosley is 6-5 and over 280 pounds now, likely meaning a first look on the offensive line for him although he could see action at tight end as well to get a feel for how much he can help at the position.

In the middle senior Bart Eddins returns after a successful junior year that saw him start and play well at guard against Tennessee in Auburn's road win and see action in 10 games. Junior Jared Cooper also has some experience and is behind Pugh at the center position with walk-on Blake Burgess likely the number three guy there heading into the spring after putting on some weight and muscle since arriving last fall. Another player that got some experience is senior walk-on guard Jorrell Bostrom. The junior college transfer played in 11 games for the Tigers last season mostly on special teams.

Two players that could be a wildcard on the line in spring practice are John Sullen and Andre Harris. A standout at Auburn High, Sullen played in all 13 games last season for the Tigers with one start. That experience should give him a leg up heading into the spring as he tries to work into the playing rotation at either guard or tackle. Harris wasn't able to pick things up as quickly as Sullen last fall, but has the ability to be a player for the Tigers down the road.

Auburn opens spring practice Wednesday morning with the spring game taking place on April 17 at 1 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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