AUBURN, Ala. — Those salivating over the prospect of Auburn putting a pair of its biggest, most talented players on the exterior of the defensive line got some bad news Thursday.
Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said Montravius Adams and Gabe Wright working at defensive end was never part of his plans this spring. Instead, injuries have forced the move.
"It really hasn’t been much of a luxury as it’s been a necessity," Johnson said. "In addition to being very thin at defensive end in spring practice ... Elijah (Daniel) got a groin the very first drill of the very first practice. So we’ve actually got Montravius and Gabe working out at defensive end more as a necessity than as an evaluation."
Daniel, who did not take part in any contact drills during Tuesday's practice, isn't expected to miss much time. Johnson conceded, however, that "groins can be funny" and refused to put a timetable on Daniel's return. The sophomore had been working at right end in the absence of last year's starter, LaDarius Owens. Given that Owens has a broken bone in his foot, Johnson said Owens won't practice at all this spring.
Even before Daniel's injury, Wright had been taking reps at right end, according to fellow lineman Carl Lawson. Lawson also revealed that Adams had been his backup at left end.
"'Mont' is a freaky athlete," Lawson said. "So he’s another one of the guys that can play end or tackle.”
Shifting his players between end and tackle isn't new to defensive line coach Rodney Garner. Last season, he had Nosa Eguae alternate between the two positions. So seeing Garner do the same this spring came as no surprise to Gus Malzahn.
"He's trying some different things out, mixing and matching," Auburn's coach said earlier this week. "The thing about those guys is, they're very athletic, even though they're big."
Still, Johnson doesn't want to see Adams and Wright remain at end full-time.
If nothing else, it gives the Tigers more options going forward.
"Both of them do some pretty impressive things out there, but we need their depth and rotation in the interior line, so I don’t foresee that being permanent," Johnson said, "but it would be good that if we did have some unusual rash of injuries next year or something occur, those guys have got the ability to maybe go out there and help us."