Grimes Likes Competition At Right Tackle

Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes talks about the three-way battle for the starting right tackle position.

Auburn, Ala.--Heading into the 2009 season one of the biggest questions surrounding the Auburn offense was at the right tackle position. Senior Andrew McCain wound up winning the job and played solid for the Tigers and coach Jeff Grimes, but not the same battle is brewing heading into the new year but with some new faces involved.

Junior college tackles Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley both came in for spring practice and did a good job of picking things up in the 15 practice days for the Tigers. Neither was able to take over the job though and it appeared to be a two-man race heading into this fall, but sophomore John Sullen threw his name into the ring after losing nearly 50 pounds since arriving last summer. Now down to just over 300 pounds, Sullen is the third player battling for the job and Grimes said that has made things interesting in practices to this point.

"That's the hard part is getting guys reps," Grimes said. "It's a good thing to have at the same time. We're certainly in a different situation than we were last year. You would much rather be in a position where you know who your guys are. It makes it much easier to practice. You know who to give reps to and you know who to get ready but this is not a bad thing because while they are competing you are actually building depth. I think those guys will all be better for having had this experience no matter who ends up the starter."

Gayden is the only one of the three that was an offensive tackle last season, albeit in junior college. Banged up for part of spring practice with a sore knee that has continued to bother him at times in preseason camp, he was the favorite by many to earn the spot before spring practice but is getting a serious run for his money at the moment from both Mosley and Sullen.

Roszell Gayden

A defensive lineman and tight end last season in junior college, Mosley was moved to offensive tackle for spring practice. Even though he struggled at times with the techniques required to excel at the position, Grimes said the junior is now up to 300 pounds and is looking more like an offensive tackle every day.

"I've seen a lot of progress this fall," Grimes said. "This spring was tough for him. He did a good job and worked hard. He really learned the offense in a short period of time but in terms of technique it was all so new to him that he struggled. This fall and in particular the last few days I have seen some improvement from him. I always say competition makes everyone better. He's competing for a job and he knows in order to win that job he's got to know how to do things. For him it's not so much what to do or who to block, it's about learning how to play the position of offensive line."

For Sullen it has been a matter of not putting on weight and muscle, but losing it. Coming in last year at around 350 pounds, the Auburn High standout was still impressive enough to play a significant role last season as a true freshman at guard and started one game. Dedicating himself to being in better shape this fall, Sullen now checks in at just over 300 pounds and that has given him a shot to play outside this year.

"I don't think it would have really been possible for him to compete before he lost the weight," Grimes said. "He's really done well. I think having made that switch and lost all that weight, he's certainly right up there. He's a very conscientious kid and very smart. With him it's still learning how to do certain things. I'm very positive he'll be very close. Whether he'll win the job or not, I don't know."

Now all that is left is to compete and see who is left standing at the end. With three guys in the mix it leaves the possibility that two of them could be really close when the time comes for Auburn to face Arkansas State on Sept. 4. Grimes said if that's the case you could see a pair of right tackles during a game for the Tigers, but he's expecting and hoping for someone to take over in the next three weeks.

"If I've got two guys that are about the same I have no problem rotating them," Grimes said. "I've had a couple of situations like that where I've had one guy just as good or so close that he deserved to play. It doesn't happen often because usually somebody ends up winning the job and develops confidence."


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