"I informed the team and the players individually that A.J. Greene is going to be our starting right tackle for the opening game," Chizik said. "Barrett Trotter has been taking most of the reps at the number two quarterback and we solidified that today as well. It doesn't mean that our other quarterbacks can't take snaps and win for us, but those are the decisions that we kind of cleared up today."
Playing in just three career games in his first three seasons at Auburn, Greene came to the Plains as a defensive lineman before moving to offense following his first year. After making very little noise up to this point, Greene has made a big push this preseason and that was enough for him to win the job over sophomore John Sullen as well as junior college transfers Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gayden. Position coach Jeff Grimes said that it has been a different A.J. Greene on the field this preseason.
"We feel really good about A.J.," Grimes said. "He's made not only great progress, but really a turnaround from the kind of player and the kind of person he has been. I'm really proud of him and how far he's come in a short period of time. I think it started this summer. When he came back this fall camp he looked different than he's looked since he's been here.
"He made a commitment this summer to get bigger and stronger so he looks the part a little bit more," he added. "That adds so much to a guy's confidence when they see their numbers in the weight room going up and they pay the price. It gives them the confidence they need to actually step out there and play better."
Seeing a different player on the field, Grimes said it didn't take long for that player to step up and throw his name in the ring at right tackle and ultimately win the job.
"I could tell when we started practice there was something different about him and the way he was playing," Grimes said. "The confidence, the aggression, he's continued to get better every single day. There hasn't been anybody that has played any harder since we started fall camp, at least with the offensive line. He's earned it. Those other guys have done a good job too, but there is no question he deserves to be a starter."
For Greene it's just the beginning though. Still yet to have his first start, he said he can't sit back and reflect on what he's accomplished because it can all be taken away just as quickly.
"I know not a lot of people expected me to win the starting spot, but I just used that as motivation and pushed myself even harder," Greene said. "It does make me feel proud, knowing how hard I worked, but I have to remind myself that I still have a lot of room for improvement."
Trotter is a player that has been making improvements since he came back from a knee injury in the spring. One of the brightest spots of the A-Day Game, Trotter has continued that good work into this fall. The redshirt sophomore from Briarwood Christian in Birmingham said for him the news was just
"It means a lot to me being named that second guy," Trotter said. "It means I'm going to have to step up in a moment's notice during a game and come in and lead the team without skipping a beat. It means a lot to me that they think I can do that. It's going to help me work even harder."
In other news junior safety Mike Slade has decided to give up football and concentrate on his academics after he was moved down the depth chart in preseason practices. With incoming freshmen Demetruce McNeal and Ryan Smith both playing well and walk-on Ikeem Means in the two-deep, the chances of breaking into that seemed slim at best for the native from Tallahassee, Fla.
On the practice field the Tigers worked out for just over two hours in shells as they continue preparations for Arkansas State. After two good days of work coach Trooper Taylor said that he again saw a team that is becoming more comfortable on the field and learning its assignments.
"I thought the kids were flying around, Taylor said. "If you think about it they've been in camp and going into practice and classes. Trying to manage all that you would think they would be getting to a point where they are tired and fatigued. I haven't seen it. They are really pushing through and really paying attention to detail. Now they are starting to ask questions on what the whole play does and not just my position specifically. It has been really good."
Trooper said Thursday was a day when his wide receivers had no drops. He said it's a rarity like Halley's Comet and he'll enjoy it while it lasts. Back practicing with the team, sophomore DeAngelo Benton continues to make progress and Taylor said he made some big plays in Thursday's practice.
A receiver that was on the sidelines for the workout was standout freshman Trovon Reed. With a sore MCL that bothered him back in high school, Reed is taking some time to make sure he's feel speed when the season opens next weekend.
"I do, I really do (expect him to play)," Taylor said of Reed. "I'm just being smart with them. I tell them ‘I'm going to get Sea Biscuit to the track'. I'm not going to leave him in the trailer. I'm going to make sure he's able to run the race, you can bet that. It's probably more me than him. He wanted to go today. I'm going to trust the trainers and doctors. We've got a great medical staff and if they tell me to give him a break then I'm going to give him a break. I want to keep pushing him to get out there but I want to be smart too."
Auburn will return to the practice field Friday morning for a short walk-through before taking Saturday off. The Tigers will practice on Sunday and begin game week heading into the opener on Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. at Jordan-Hare Stadium.