AUBURN, Ala. — Just who will start for Auburn at right guard Saturday at Tennessee remains a mystery.
“You can ask coach (Gene) Chizik,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said with a smile Wednesday, knowing reporters had already spoken with Chizik for the last time this week just minutes earlier.
The Tigers have rotated a variety of players at right guard during practice after starter Byron Isom was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules last week.
True freshman John Sullen started in his place against Ball State and held his own.
“(He did) OK for a true freshman,” Grimes said. “That’s a tough job to be in is a true freshman to step in and start. I’ve done it at the last three schools I’ve coached at and every time it’s a challenge because there’s just so much to learn in terms of what to do and how to do it for young guys. Tough spot to be in.”
Auburn has also taken a look at junior Bart Eddins and sophomore Jared Cooper, neither of whom have started a game in their careers. Both have gotten limited playing time in every game this season.
The coaching staff also hasn’t explicitly ruled Isom out for the game. Despite his suspension, he has been allowed to practice this week.
Ariton, Ala., defensive end Craig Sanders backed out of his commitment to Alabama and verbally committed to Auburn on Wednesday, according to AuburnSports.com.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound four-star recruit committed to the Crimson Tide in May. He is the first recruit in the last six signing classes to switch from Alabama to Auburn.
Sanders is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 7 recruit in the state of Alabama and the No. 12 weak-side defensive end in the country. He is Auburn’s 17th commitment for 2010 and the third defensive end in the class.
Tiger Walk nixed
Auburn fans expecting to participate in a full-blown Tiger Walk in Knoxville this Saturday will be disappointed.
Although fans will still be allowed to greet Auburn players as they get off the bus, Tennessee athletic officials have asked that the band and cheerleaders not participate for safety issues. The visiting team drop-off area is on a hill and in a tight space.
“In 2004 when the Tigers played here, we had approximately 5,000 fans show up with the band and the cheerleaders, which was a great atmosphere, but a huge safety issue for the student-athletes, band and cheerleaders and fans because of the tight space,” UT spokesperson Tiffany Carpenter wrote in an e-mail to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“If something had happened to a fan in that area, EMT would not have been able to respond because of the crowd size.”
Up for grabs
Anthony Gulley, Demond Washington and Quindarius Carr have gotten the majority of work as punt returners this week, said wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, who oversees the group. But Auburn still doesn’t have an answer as to who will return punts Saturday.
“Those guys have either got it or they don’t, in my opinion,” special teams coordinator Jay Boulware said. “And I haven’t seen anybody who’s got it as of yet, so we’ll see.”
A host of players have spent some time returning punts this week as well, including running backs Mario Fannin, Onterio McCalebb and Eric Smith and wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis.
Pierre-Louis has not played in a game this year per Chizik’s discretion, a subject the coach didn’t shed any light on Wednesday.
“We just kind of take it day-by-day with him and he’s been out there practicing and working every day,” said Chizik, who did not say whether or not Pierre-Louis would travel to Knoxville.
Chizik did say freshman QB Tyrik Rollison will travel for Saturday’s game. Teams are allowed to bring 70 players on the road in SEC play. ... Contrary to reports Sunday, freshman OL Andre Harris did not play near the end of the Ball State game, meaning his redshirt is still in tact. The Auburn sports information staff misidentified Darrell Roseman for Harris. ... Chizik did not comment specifically on if LB Spencer Pybus suffered a setback in his recovery from an August concussion. “We don’t know exactly where that’s at right now,” he said. “It’s just in a situation where time is the only thing that’s going to be the great healer for him.” Pybus, who practiced for the first time in a month and a half last week, has not played in a game this year.