Not So Big John Enjoying New Role For AU

Auburn sophomore offensive lineman John Sullen talks about his transformation physically and working at right tackle.

Auburn, Ala.--It's hard to imagine just how far Auburn sophomore offensive lineman John Sullen has come in just one year.

Arriving on the Plains last fall at more than 350 pounds, the former Auburn High standout still managed to play a role for the Tigers on offense and even started a game for coach Jeff Grimes.

His future looked limited to playing offensive guard though because at that weight he just didn't have the quickness to play outside at one of the tackle positions. Improving his quickness became a goal for Sullen as he set out to become a better player and also improve his physical conditioning by changing his eating habits dramatically. The results have been noticeable on and off the field.

Sullen now looks the part of an offensive tackle.

Now checking in at just over 300 pounds, Sullen has improved his conditioning so much, and therefore his quickness, that he is getting a shot at the open right tackle position this preseason despite the fact he worked at guard the entire spring in Mike Berry's absence because of a shoulder problem. \

Despite being several months behind his fellow candidates Roszell Gayden and Brandon Mosley at the position, Sullen says he feels pretty comfortable there already after getting a bit of a head start the last few months.

"Coach (Grimes) talked to me over the summer," Sullen says. "He told me he wanted me to learn a little right tackle and I would have a shot. I just got in the playbook and started learning it. I feel comfortable."

Sullen's first real chance to showcase his skills at right tackle came last Wednesday night in the first scrimmage of the preseason. While Grimes says the big sophomore was solid, Sullen says for him it wasn't what he had hoped for out of himself.

"I wasn't very happy with my performance personally because I always feel like there is something I can do better," he says. "My mom kind of ruined my life by making everything have to be perfect so now I'm like a perfectionist. If it wasn't perfect I'm not happy with it.

"It was different," he adds of the scrimmage. "It was a lot different. It was a little bit faster than practice. I got adjusted to it though. Overall it was okay."

With almost three weeks left until the season opener against Arkansas State, Grimes is giving four of his players a chance to earn the right tackle job in practice with junior A.J. Greene, the backup to Lee Ziemba at left tackle, also getting a look. That means splitting reps at the position with a different guys working with the first team.

"Throughout the whole camp we've been alternating," Sullen notes. "Some people work with the orange first group. Some work with the second group. He's (Grimes) just alternating to see which tackle will mesh the best.

"Coach tries to keep things pretty balanced," Sullen adds. "I do trust him enough to know that the best player will play."

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