AUBURN, Ala. Rhett Lashlee understands the logic that there will be some dropoff in the quality of play at Auburns left tackle position this fall.
After all, replacing a player as talented as Greg Robinson considered a consensus top 10 pick in Mays NFL draft, with the possibility of being taken No. 1 overall isnt something most teams are able to do easily. But Lashlee isnt worried. First, he noted the experienced players competing for the spot, with Patrick Miller and Shon Coleman splitting time with the first team. Then he brought up J.B. Grimes , the offensive line coach who worked wonders with the unit last year, as it paved the way for the nations top-ranked rushing attack.
Yes, Lashlee said, the Tigers will be fine.
I have a lot of confidence they are going to fit in, Auburn's offensive coordinator said Thursday. Those guys got a lot of reps. Both Pat and Shon played last year so its not like they are true freshmen trying to break in.
At this point, the two are neck-and-neck at the top in a four-way battle.
Between Pat and Shon there is really no separation at all, Lashlee said. We havent even put pads on. Coach Grimes is kind of rotating them. We just kind of take it day-to-day. That could shift daily.
The ever-changing face of the left tackle position doesnt concern Chad Slade. Back for his fourth year as a starter on the offensive line, the senior right guard has worked alongside countless players in practices and games the last four seasons.
In his view, whoever wins the left tackle job has earned it by securing the trust of the coaching staff.
No matter who it is, its going to be a good replacement, Slade said. Were going to work with him, and were going to get him connected just like Greg was connected with us. Were not going to play as five. Were all going to play as one. Thats what our motto is. Whoever coach puts there, were going to make him just like he was Greg.
Avery Young, the starting right tackle for the final 10 games of last season, was once thought to be a candidate for left tackle. After mulling it over, however, Lashlee said the coaching staff decided it was best to leave Young on the right side.
Right now he is. The thing about Avery is that you can see he really matured last year, Lashlee said. I think he could develop into a big leader for us up there along with Reese (Dismukes) and (Alex) Kozan. Avery is a versatile kid. He is talented enough to play all the spots, I believe. Were going to keep him at right tackle right now and we have no plans to do anything different.
In a perfect world, Robinsons successor will emerge by the end of the spring if not sooner. But Gus Malzahn has been around long enough to know things dont always go so smoothly.
You would like to have as many answers as possible moving forward to summer so they can work in one position and get better on their own, Auburns coach said. And then (they can) show up in the fall ready to go.
The last thing Lashlee wants the players focusing on is the depth chart, though. Thats for others to agonize over.
If the players fighting for the starting spot arent doing everything they can to make their improvement easily noticeable, Lashlee said it would be a case of misplaced priorities.
What weve told our guys is that weve got people worried about whos one and whos two and whos three, he said. Were going to shuffle some things around through the spring. Were more worried about and want them to be concerned about where we are at the end of the spring. After practice 15, now where are you at on the depth chart? Thats when it will matter.