Auburn spring questions: Projecting possible position changes

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 11, 2014 

Auburn's Justin Garrett is relieved to be back on the field after an injury-plagued 2013 campaign.

TODD J. VAN EMST — Todd J. Van Emst

Auburn's spring practice starts March 18. But as with any team, the Tigers have questions they'll try to answer in various areas. In that vein, beat writer Ryan Black has come up with 10 queries, looking at position battles, individual players and everything in between. The series continues with Tigers who might move to different spots.

What players will find themselves in new positions?

Spring always provides a time for coaches to experiment.

In just one such example for Auburn last season, LaDarius Owens moved from defensive end to linebacker. Of course, by the time the regular season arrived, he was back on the defensive line due to the multiple injuries suffered up front -- most notable among them being Dee Ford.

Who could find themselves shifting around as Owens did last year?

Two names come immediately to mind, though one comes with an asterisk. That player is Johnathan Ford. The running back-turned-corner spent the entirety of last season on defense aside from a few carries in games where the Tigers emptied their bench. Prior to the BCS championship game, Ford said his hope is that he would return to offense, which was where Auburn recruited him to play coming out of high school.

When asked about Ford's future, Gus Malzahn said a decision wouldn't be made until spring practice drew near. By this time next week, we should have our verdict on whether Ford will be trying to bat down passes or get the chance to compete for the starting running back job.

The other player who might be on the move is Trovon Reed. In a way, he outed himself, when he mentioned in an Instagram post in January that he would switch from receiver to corner. But Reed apparently jumped the gun, as Malzahn said reports of Reed becoming a defender were "premature."

"We have not talked about any of that," the coach said at the time. "Once we get to our pre-spring meetings we’ll talk through things like that."

Outside of those two, another player to keep an eye on is Justin Garrett. The Georgia native was the Tigers' top defender last spring at the Star position, but injuries (and the emergence of Robenson Therezie) saw him shift to linebacker for two games before a knee injury cut his season short. It will be interesting to see where defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson elects to place the versatile junior, whether that means remaining at linebacker or moving back to Star.

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