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January 10, 2012

Auburn in review: Offensive line

My apologies for the lack of an offensive line post in the blog’s series on Auburn’s outlook for next season on a position-by-position basis. With everything that broke at some point or the other yesterday — VanGorder, Roof, Dyer, Barbee, even Dismukes — I got swamped in the breaking news and never got a chance to write up the next installment in the series. For those who haven’t been following the blog on a daily basis, the previous installments in the series are posted below.

For more from what promises to be an eventful week in Auburn football, make sure to follow the blog on Twitter. As I’m sure all of you know, Auburn still needs to find a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, VanGorder will be formally introduced Wednesday and Onterio McCalebb is still mulling over whether or not to come back for his senior season, although he will probably be back. Throw in Auburn basketball games at home against Kentucky and Ole Miss, and the blog should have a busy week. But enough about what’s to come. Let’s take a look at Auburn’s offensive line in what promises to be an extremely lengthy blog post. A note of disclaimer: Offensive line evaluations are harder than any other position. For the purposes of this post, I’ll be relying primarily on notes from Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes over the course of the season.

On the way out

Bobby Ingalls — Sr.

A walk-on transfer who ended up at Auburn after his former school, Lambuth University, folded the football program, Ingalls worked his way into playing time midway through the season as an extra blocker at tight end when Auburn needed a road-grader at the spot. He was never a major factor in the offensive line rotation.

Brandon Mosley — Sr.

Brought in as a junior college transfer before the 2010 season, Mosley’s recruitment paid off in a big way for the Tigers. A big, road-grader type at right tackles, Mosley started 11 games during Auburn’s national championship season in 2010, and he held down the left side of the line early in 2011 while A.J. Greene was still recovering from a knee injury before switching back over to the right side. Over on the right, Mosley was Auburn’s most consistent lineman, and he played well enough to earn a Senior Bowl invitation. With players waiting in the wings on the left side, replacing Mosley may be the toughest task Jeff Grimes faces this offseason.

A.J. Greene — Sr.

Greene had a star-crossed career at Auburn. Named a starter at right tackle before the season-opener in 2010, Greene suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the third game that carried over all the way into this season, and he never really locked down the left side after his return this year. Greene primarily struggled with speed rushers on the outside.

Jared Cooper — Sr.

Cooper’s time in the lineup ended before I arrived in Auburn. A grinder who played primarily on special teams during his first three years, Cooper ascended to the starting lineup in 2011, and the line suffered when he went down with an injury midway through the season. A grinder who worked hard to earn his spot, Cooper played solid football in the first six games before getting hurt.

On campus

John Sullen — Jr.

Sullen, a native of Auburn, Ala., served as the Tigers’ starter at right guard and held down the spot all season long. For the most part, Sullen has put together a sort of workmanlike resume as a starter, holding down the starting spot without much regular fanfare or criticism. Even with an influx of talent on its way into the offensive line, Sullen will probably be in the mix to start as a senior.

Donnie Riggins — Jr.

Riggins has generated little buzz in his time at Auburn and is not expected to be in the mix.

Blake Burgess — So.

Originally expected to be in the mix as a versatile backup on the offensive line, Burgess had fallen out of favor by the time the season ended. He was used mostly as a blocking tight end who switches his number to 86 in that role. Will have to make up some ground before the spring to be a factor.

Eric Mack — R. Fr.

By the time the season ended, Mack was seeing some time on the field as Auburn’s sixth offensive lineman, but he may have trouble holding onto that spot as young players develop. Mack has struggled with his weight in the past, and Grimes said he still has a ways to go after coming into the game to help replace an injured Mosley against Samford.

Chad Slade — R. Fr.

Thrust into the starting lineup at the beginning of the year and in the middle due to injuries, Slade has shown the versatility to play both guard and tackle, meaning it’s hard to project his eventual landing place going forward. At times, Slade struggled at guard, especially on pulling plays when he had to pick off a speedy defensive lineman on the pass rush. He has been very solid at right tackle when he has to move over there. Going forward, Slade will probably be a part of the offensive line’s future, but pinning down where is no easy task.

Chase Seals — R. Fr.

Seals has not generated much discussion from Grimes and is not expected to be a factor in the race for playing time next spring.

Tunde Fariyike — R. Fr.

Fariyike was a little bit of a surprise addition to the Auburn depth chart late in the season, when Grimes said he had basically locked down the backup role at center behind true freshman Reese Dismukes. That may be Fariyike’s position going forward.

Ed Christian — R. Fr.

The last word from Gene Chizik on Christian was that he was headed for medical hardship, which would end his college career.

Ryan Preston — R. Fr.

Preston has not generated much discussion from Grimes and is not expected to be a factor for playing time going forward.

¬†Aubrey Phillips — R. Fr.

The last word from Chizik on Phillips was that he was also headed for medical hardship.

Shon Coleman — R. Fr.

Coleman is doing well in his recovery from leukemia, but Chizik does not know if he will ever be able to play football again.

Reese Dismukes — Fr.

Dismukes is likely going to be Auburn’s starter at center for the next three years, barring injury or another development. Dismukes started every game at center as a true freshman, and he has been named to both the FWAA and CBSSports.com Freshman All-America teams, in addition to the Freshman All-SEC team. Dismukes’s season means Auburn does not have to worry about center going into next season.

Jon-Morgan Poole — Fr.

Poole just completed his redshirt season with the Tigers.

Christian Westerman — Fr.

A highly-rated prospect coming out of high school, it was originally thought that Westerman might work his way into the starting lineup as a true freshman, but a slow start led Grimes to decide to redshirt the 6-3, 280-pounder. In the process, Westerman has added weight and strength, and by the end of the season Grimes said that Westerman had made great strides. Paired with fellow highly-rated tackle Greg Robinson on the left side, Westerman is expected to make a strong case to start at left guard next year.

Thomas O’Reilly — Fr.

O’Reilly, rated a top-10 guard by the national recruiting services, redshirted this season and may need more time to make an impact.

Greg Robinson — Fr.

Robinson is expected to move right into the starting lineup at left tackle and drew high praise from both Grimes and his older teammates by the end of the season. A mammoth player who is listed at 6-5, 315 pounds, Robinson has freakish athleticism, so much that current starter A.J. Greene said during bowl practices that Robinson probably could have started by the end of the year. Robinson was redshirted this season, but he’s expected to move into the left tackle spot as a starter with plenty of potential going forward.

On the way in

Shane Callahan, Chaparral High School, Parker, Colo.

Listed at 6-6, 277 pounds, Callahan has been rated a four-star prospect by more than one recruiting site and is listed as a student on Auburn’s school website. That, plus tweets from Callahan’s Twitter account, indicate that he has enrolled early at Auburn, although there has been no official word from Auburn yet. Callahan’s highlight video can be viewed at that link, and he has a big frame that could fill out as he gets on campus and begins to get started.

Robert Leff, Fairhope High School, Ala.

Fairhope offensive lineman Robert Leff, a 6-6, 270-pounder who is a three-star recruit, switched his commitment from Southern Mississippi to Auburn in December. Rated a three-star recruit by two recruiting sites, Leff has a big frame, like Callahan, that could fill out once he gets on campus.

Outlook

Following an uneven, disappointing season on the offensive line, as many as four spots on the offensive line may be up for grabs going into spring practice. No matter who Auburn’s next offensive coordinator is going forward, the Tigers have to get better production out of an offensive line that got dominated against LSU and Alabama this season. Players like Robinson and Westerman give some hope that Auburn can fill its holes on the offensive line going forward, but the Tigers are actively recruiting several high-level offensive linemen right now. Expect the Tigers to try to fill a couple more spots before National Signing Day.

1 Comment

  1. These guys need to put on some weight, but sounds like there is potential to have a better offensive line next yr.

    Comment by jettmd — January 11, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

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