AUBURN, Ala. Avery Young waited more than a year for last Saturday to arrive.
Taking his place as Auburns starting right tackle against Western Carolina made Young think back to last season, when he manned the position during the first three games of 2012. Soon after, he suffered a shoulder injury that cut his season short, which allowed Patrick Miller to move into the lineup for the last nine contests of the Tigers 3-9 campaign. Once fall camp rolled around, Young was healthy enough to go head-to-head with Miller for the starting job. It didnt work out in the redshirt freshmans favor, however, as Miller won the competition and started the first five games of this season.
Saturday was different.
For reasons head coach Gus Malzahn would only deem off the field things, Miller was not with the team.
Young didnt let the opportunity go by the wayside.
It felt real good to get back out there, he said. Its been a while since the little situation I had when I went down, but its getting better. Im just trying to scrape off the rust spots and trying to help my team.
It wasnt a game-time decision that elevated Young back into the starting lineup. He said he was informed he would get the starting nod early in the week, giving him the chance to get acclimated with the first-team offense during every practice leading up to the game.
While thrilled to be labeled as a starter once more, Young said life as a backup hasnt been as difficult as many may imagine.
Even when Im not in there, Im always paying attention and locked in, he said. (Im) making sure when I get out there and my number is called that I can do (my job).
Losing the preseason battle to Miller was tough, Young admitted, but it was made easier because of the bond he shares with his fellow Florida native.
I have nothing against Pat, thats my brother. We played in the same area back in high school, Young said. Whoever is on top, we make sure were both doing it and helping each other out. Whoever is playing, then thats whos playing. If its Pat then Im looking out for him and making sure hes doing his job. Hed do the same for me.
Reese Dismukes was pleased to see Youngs face back with the first-team offensive line even if he didnt get to see much of his teammates performance while it was happening.
It was good for him to get out there and play, the junior center said. I didnt really watch him too much. I was mainly watching myself.
With Millers status still uncertain, Young may find himself back in the starting lineup this Saturday when Auburn faces Texas A&M. Rhett Lashlee didnt downplay the importance of the snaps Young was able to get against Western Carolina last week. Yes, the second-team offensive line gets its share of reps during practice.
But as Auburn's offensive coordinator pointed out, nothing can simulate a game.
We really try to make sure our twos get enough reps because youre one rep away at every position from those guys having to play, Lashlee said. Avery is a very smart guy and really athletic. Hes very athletic, very gifted. To get those reps and get all that new out of the way, I thought it was really good for him.