The all too early 2011 Auburn Tigers breakdown: OL Edition

By: JR4AU

Well, the 2010 season is in the books.  And, thankfully, it’s in some nice books, and magazines that will adorn our coffee tables for some time to come.

In the coming weeks, I will try to give some insight in to what is returning to the gridiron for the Auburn Tigers in 2011.   I’m going to break it down unit by unit, and start with what I think was the true catalyst for the 2010 season.  No, not quarterback, but offensive line.  Cam, by any standards, was great. Players like that elevate mediocre teams to good, and good teams to greatness.   To all the detractors that say this was a one man team in Cam Newton:  You don’t have a friggin’ clue what you’re talking about, and such statements evidence a great lack of football savvy, or it may be evidence that you’re simply a jealous Alabama, LSU, or Georgia fan grasping at anything to try to make you feel better.

Mosley and Greene look set to be the starters at LT & RT...

The quarterback position will most likely go to Barrett Trotter.   I’d like to think that he’s just as good from a skill set standpoint as Chris Todd was, and at least as smart.  He may be better on both counts.   Something tells me, maybe it was looking at the Under Armor All Star Game, that Kiel Frazier may be used in an expanded “wildcat” role.   I’ll cover that in greater depth later.

Most “experts” look at an offensive line’s experience, and say 80 combined starts is where you start looking for an OL to become seasoned and truly “jelled”.  Now obviously, how these starts are spread out plays a part.  Pugh and Ziemba, if my math is correct, started 2010 with 66 starts between them.   If I recall correctly, there were close to 100 combined starts when Isom’s and Berry’s were factored in.   You can’t replace experience.

Here’s a look at what we can expect the offensive line to look like in 2011.

A.J. Greene 6-5/291 started the season at RT, but broke his ankle early. Greene had come out of obscurity as a red shirt junior to take this position away from two highly touted junior college transfers in Brandon Mosley 6-6/299 and Roszell Gayden.  Gayden eventually left the team during the season.    That Greene beat out these two was a worrisome development for some like me.  It worked out ok.  Greene was good in his short time, and  Mosley was very good replacing him.  Unless Greene’s injury was more devastating than I’ve heard, one would have to think the RT position is his to lose going in to spring.

The conventional wisdom is Moseley is the heir apparent to Ziemba’s left tackle position.   Despite some of the faults of Ziemba that some fans focused on, he’s bound for the NFL, and was a very good LT.  I’d welcome him, or one like him back any time.  Mosley is a TE that outgrew the position.  He could probably hang another ten or even 20 pound on his 6-6 frame, but that doesn’t always translate well.   As a former TE, he’s probably at least as athletic as Ziemba, and probably more.  Mosley will be the LT going in to spring, and I don’t think he’ll be challenged.

The next most experienced offensive lineman returning is John Sullen, 6-6/312.  Over the last 2 season Sullen has filled in at both RG and RT, and played extensively on special teams.    Sullen’s build is more like that of a Tackle than a Guard.  The Guards in this offense have to be able to pull.   I don’t know if Sullen is athletic enough, and you could see him at RT, and Greene at guard.   The RG in particular has to also be able to deal with the 3 technique DT more often too, and that’s always a consideration.

...While Sullen looks set to be the starter at RG

At any rate, unless injuries dictate something different, Mosley, Greene, and Sullen should be expected to be 3 of the 5 starters.

That leaves two more spots to be filled by guys that will be seeing SEC playing time for the first time. They’ll have to grow up fast.  Pugh will be the most difficult to replace at C.  The Center makes all the line calls, and that is a big loss at Center, and very tough to replace.   We all saw how much trouble Florida had making the transition at Center this year, and they struggled just getting the snap back to the QB for the first few games.

Blake Burgess 6-2/277 was listed as the back-up Center in 2010.  He was a RS Fr. that came to Auburn as an invited walk-on.   I don’t know if he’s earned a scholarship yet.  Clearly from that, and his size, we were going to be in a world of hurt if Pugh had gone down.   He’s a good kid, a smart kid, and come from good football genes, but unless he can carry 285 or more on his 6-2 frame, and without losing quickness, I just don’t see him being the guy.   However, he could be a stopgap measure for 2011.

The other candidates at Center?  I guess we should start with Reese Dismukes,  6-4/287, the 4 star recruit out of Spanish Fort, AL.    As I understand it now, Dismukes is scheduled to enroll early and will get a spring practice and off season workout with the team under his belt.  If he is to work out, then this may help him make the starting five over Burgess.   My best guess is Dismukes, with his early enrollment, stands a pretty good chance at being  the guy.

So, let’s look at the remaining candidates to fill the openings at Guard and Center, in no particular order.

Jarred Cooper, 6-4/300.  He was listed as the #3 guy behind Mike Berry behind Jorrell Bostrom, both of whom graduated.  In reality, It was Eddins, who has graduated, and Sullen that filled in when needed.  Cooper, a Sr. in 2011 is way down the list, but I guess could become another A.J. Greene.

After Cooper, we get in to guys that haven’t even been listed on any depth chart.

Eric Mack, 6-5/361.  Mack was a 4 star OL recruit in the 2010 class, and came in listed at 6-4/315.  Unless his weight is a misprint in the latest roster, he clearly has some weight issues, and probably will be given some type of ultimatum.  We’ll see if he wants to play.

Chad Slade, 6-5/316 was a 3 star recruit in the 2010 class.   I never heard his name this year, so I suspect he redshirted.

Andre Harris, 6-3/318 was a 3 star recruit in the 2009 class.  He battled some weight problems, but is listed 10-12 pounds lighter than his recruiting weight.  I had heard he battle hard for playing time at RT last fall, but was hampered by injuries.  He’s built more like a Guard.

Thomas O’Reilly 6-3/313 arrives on campus this fall, and is a 3 star recruit that is built like a Guard.

Greg Robinson 6-5/296, a 4 star recruit that projects as a Tackle eventually, but may play G early in his career depending on need.

Tunde Fariyke  6-2/330 is another heavy weight type, that came in as a 2 star recruit in the 2010 class and about 35 pounds lighter.

The thing about offensive line, different from defensive line, is that they don’t substitute regularly.  The starting 5 take 90% plus of the meaningful snaps.  You just don’t build depth of experience at offensive line unless you’re forced to with injuries, or beat opponents up by big margins.  At this point it would look like Mosley, Greene, and Sullen would be locks to start at LT, RT, and RG respectively.  However, offensive line is as much about chemistry as it is anything else, and I expect to hear lots of coach speak coming out of spring practice about the battles going on for the offensive line.   I don’t know of any in the works, but I’d like to see another JC guy possibly brought in on the offensive line.

As I stated, you can’t replace experience, and this unit will be young, but there is some talent to work with here.   I don’t expect this unit to be a glaring weakness on the 2011 team, but certainly will have some growing pains.   Shon Coleman’s absence will be felt here.  I wish him continued luck in his battle.  This is really more a look at what’s returning, than a real “breakdown.”  Spring practice will almost certainly force me to revisit the offensive line for a real breakdown.

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