AUBURN, Ala. — Eight days before its season opener, Auburn clarified two of its major position battles.
The Tigers named Barrett Trotter their backup quarterback and A.J. Greene their starting right tackle Thursday, at last answering the questions that have persisted for the previous week.
Trotter, a sophomore who missed last year after tearing his ACL in the spring of 2009, beat out fifth-year senior Neil Caudle and redshirt freshman Clint Moseley for the job.
“He was in the mix until the very end when we named Cam (Newton) the starter,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “He came back in fall camp and has not missed a lick. We feel very good about him. We know what we’re going to get. He’s a tough guy. Throws the ball with great touch. Understands protections. Very solid quarterback.”
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Trotter capped his spring with 154 passing yards and two touchdowns in the A-Day game. But a week later, Newton, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior college transfer, earned the No. 1 job.
“Once the starter’s been named, that’s the next best thing you shoot for,” Trotter said. “That’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what we’ve all been doing is working hard and trying to get that spot.”
Despite entering his third year at Auburn, Trotter has not played in a game.
“You want to get in every game you can and I haven’t been able to yet,” he said. “It’s definitely something I’ve been looking for.”
Malzahn and head coach Gene Chizik would not designate a backup between Caudle and Moseley.
“I’ve said this all along, we’ve got four guys that can move the football and know our offense,” Malzahn said. “Quarterback is one of our deepest positions, and that’s a very good thing.”
Greene, who Chizik called the “most improved player on our team,” beat out sophomore John Sullen and a pair of junior college transfers, Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gayden, for the right tackle job, although he entered the race as underdog.
“I wouldn’t say a long shot,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said. “Maybe a dark horse.”
The junior played in only three games his first three seasons, so forgotten about that, unlike most veterans on the team, he did not have his own page in the Auburn media guide.
But after the converted defensive lineman got a taste at right tackle last spring, his game took off. Grimes said he first saw a difference in the 6-foot-5, 291-pound Greene after the summer.
“He made a commitment this summer to get bigger and stronger,” Grimes said. “He looks the part a little more.”
“He’s really flipped the switch,” Malzahn said. “He’s a different person.”
Greene began to get more looks as a possible starter a few weeks ago and thrived in the role.
“I know not a lot of people expected me to win the starting spot, but I just used that as motivation and pushed myself even harder,” he said. “It does make me feel proud, knowing how hard I worked, but I have to remind myself that I still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Sullen, who has dealt with an undisclosed injury, continues to work at different spots along the line. He’ll enter the season as the No. 2 right tackle and right guard.
“I just told him that we’re still going to need him,” Grimes said. “He’s a young guy who’s really come on. … He’s a guy that could play either spot and that makes his role even more valuable to the team.”
Not all position battles were decided. The punting competition between senior Ryan Shoemaker and freshman Steven Clark will continue, Chizik said.
Notes: Senior Ryan Pugh was named to the watch list for the Rimington Award, given annually to the nation’s top center. … Freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed (knee) did not practice Thursday, although wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor expects him to be ready for the opener. “I tell him, I’ve got to get Seabiscuit to the track,” Taylor said. “I’m not going to leave him in the trailer.”