AUBURN, Ala. — Aside from quarterback, no position in Auburn’s offense is tasked with more responsibilities than the center.
The Tigers haven’t had to worry about the spot since Reese Dismukes arrived. He is entering his fourth season as the starter, after all. But the team is already preparing for the future.
Xavier Dampeer, an early enrollee who transferred from Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss., has worked mostly with the second-team offense this spring.
Despite being one of the newest members of the team, he’s played well enough to impress coaches and teammates alike.
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“He's getting a lot of reps,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “ I thought his communication has been good. He seems like a real football-savvy guy, and he likes to compete, so he'll have a chance."”
Dismukes has picked up on many of the same qualities.
“He has come out there and worked,” he said. “Obviously we’re throwing a lot at him, but I think he has accepted it well. He’s coming along each and every day and getting better. That’s what it’s going to take.”
But he hasn’t been assigned to backup duty only. In the Tigers’ first spring scrimmage on March 29, Dampeer was rotated in with the first-team offensive line. Immediately afterward, Malzahn didn’t have much to say about Dampeer’s performance.
Once he graded the film, the coach believed the newcomer made the most of the opportunity.
“I thought overall for what we ask our center to do, for the first time in a scrimmage setting, I thought he did a good job,” Malzahn said. “His snaps were good, and of course that's where it starts. His execution will get nothing but better.”
Alex Kozan echoed that sentiment. Though he started all 14 games at left guard last season, Kozan has experience at center as a last-resort option. Well-aware how complex Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle scheme is, he couldn’t say enough about Dampeer’s progress.
With that in mind, it made Kozan even more excited to see Dampeer in the coming years.
“He’s come in and attacked it, and for a guy that came in mid-semester, the way he’s been able to pick up the offense and make the calls at center, that’s really hard to do,” Kozan said. “So for him to come in and kind of be a rock so far, it’s pretty impressive. I think Xavier has a bright future ahead of him.”