Mark Tauscher started at right tackle for nine superlative seasons for the Green Bay Packers.
The front-runner to replace him at this point, Allen Barbre, has been playing the position for about five weeks.
"If you would have saw him in a right-handed stance 10 days ago, you'd be going, ‘Holy moly,'" offensive line coach James Campen said three weeks ago.
But with Tauscher unsigned and his health in question after suffering a season-ending knee injury in December and Breno Giacomini still sidelined after offseason ankle surgery, Barbre's grip on the position is growing stronger by the day.
That's surprising, considering Barbre's inexperience at the position. Barbre started at left tackle for three-and-a-half seasons at Division II Missouri Southern State. He spent his first two NFL seasons as a reserve at left guard. In fact, he's never played on the right side of the offensive line in his life.
"Yeah, first time ever," Barbre said Wednesday after again taking every first-team rep at right tackle during organized team activities. "It was different at first, but for the most part, after I got used to it and got comfortable over there, it kind of felt like playing tackle on the left side and just flipping sides. Just getting the technique down was the biggest thing."
Coach Mike McCarthy did his best to temper the talk about Barbre. After all, the linemen aren't allowed to battle at full speed during these voluntary practices. Even one-on-one pass-rushing drills are more about honing technique than proving anyone's skills.
"Allen's had a very positive camp," McCarthy said on Wednesday. "You never try to get too excited too fast, because you don't want to create unrealistic expectations. But every day in the film sessions with the coaches, Allen Barbre has done a very good job so far. I think this is a more natural position for him.
"As far as what he's done with his body, he's a lot stronger. His weight is up. This is the highest he's ever been, and he's still extremely athletic. And he's a tough guy. He just does a great job finishing things. We haven't put the pads on yet, but I really like what I see so far from Allen Barbre."
Giacomini entered the offseason as the favorite to replace Tauscher and certainly remains in the mix. As a rookie last year, he improved by leaps and bounds by tangling with Pro Bowler Aaron Kampman every day at practice.
Barbre is getting that same benefit now. Kampman might feel out of place dropping into coverage as an outside linebacker, but he knows how to get to the quarterback. During the practices open to reporters, Barbre has been beaten only a time or two on passing plays.
"You know, it's great for me," Barbre said of facing Kampman. "Great player. Just good competition I get to go against every day and make myself better. I really enjoy it.
Barbre is arguably the strongest player on the team, and that strength is what Campen pointed to when asked why Barbre can go from backup guard to starting tackle. The 6-foot-4 Barbre weighs 305 pounds, and he'd like to get to 310 by training camp.
"Very strong, physically," Campen said. "If you took a picture of him three years to now ... very explosive off the ball. Since we moved him over this offseason to right tackle, every day he has gotten better and better and better. Very strong, very powerful person who has great quickness."
The potential possessed by Barbre, Giacomini and rookie T.J. Lang is great but Tauscher set some impeccable standards. And just a few locker stalls down the linemen's wall, Tauscher's nameplate continues to hang above his locker.
Barbre considers Tauscher a friend and recently played in Tauscher's charity golf tournament. So, while Tauscher may or may not be gone, he's certainly not forgotten.
"To be honest with you, I'm not paying attention to that," Barbre said. "Just take care of what I can take care of. And that's give it my best on the field. People come and go. Just like college, you see your best friends go. Good friends come and go. It's just the nature of the beast.
"I wish the best for him."
With Tauscher seemingly out of the picture, Giacomini relegated to watching, Lang being brought along slowly with the second team and Tony Moll filling in for left tackle Chad Clifton, Barbre can hear opportunity knocking.
"Oh, yeah. It's exciting," he said. "I'm just staying focused on working hard, and that's all I can take care of to take care of business."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.