AUBURN, Ala. — In the wake of Alex Kozan's season-ending back injury, the Tigers had to shuffle things around on its offensive line. Chad Slade flipped from right guard to left guard. Avery Young took Slade's spot at right guard, moving from right tackle. And that led to Patrick Miller reclaiming the right tackle spot, where he started the first five games last season.
One could say Auburn's line has found a happy medium for the time being.
"We've got other guys who can shuffle around and get in there," offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said. "What it means with losing Alex — who I think is one heck of a football player — is that we're a man down, so if and when the next guy goes down, it creates a little bit of a crisis. So you've got to plan ahead. Alright, who's the next guy? And the next guy? Do you have to plug him in? Do you have to move those guys around?"
And that's exactly what the Tigers did this spring. Preemptively planning for injuries, the coaching staff shifted Slade, Young and Miller around to different spots — alterations that Grimes joked the media "went nuts over," speculating about multiple players changing positions. Of course, as Grimes noted, it was all by design.
"You can't plan on what's happened to (coach) Gus Malzahn and (offensive coordinator) Rhett Lashlee and myself over the last two years. You can't plan on that happening all the time," Grimes said. "We haven't had any injuries. We're going to have injuries. It's going to happen. What happens when adversity strikes? You've got to have a plan. It's not if adversity strikes, it's when. Getting your next best guy in there is part of that plan. ... Trying to stay two steps ahead is the deal."
Grimes is well ahead of the curve one week into fall camp.
But if injuries start to pile up, things could get dicey.
"It's a situation where I'm feeling pretty good right now about what we would do if a tackle went down, what we would do if another guard went down, what we would do if a center went down," Grimes said. "Where you have a tough plan is if that next one goes down. So, those are the things you have to get in there and stir the coffee a bit, figure out what you're going to do."