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Auburn spring position battles: Offensive tackle

Players competing to start at tackle for Auburn include (from left to right) Braden Smith, Austin Golson, Prince Tega Wanogho and Darius James.
Players competing to start at tackle for Auburn include (from left to right) Braden Smith, Austin Golson, Prince Tega Wanogho and Darius James. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn’s impending quarterback battle is an important one, but the team has other positions up for grabs when spring practice starts Feb. 28.

Here is a look at Auburn’s top position battles this spring…

Position: Offensive tackle

Contenders: Darius James, Austin Golson, Braden Smith, Prince Tega Wanogho, Prince Michael Sammons, Calvin Ashley, Tyler Carr, Bailey Sharp

Auburn has two holes on the offensive line to fill with tackle Robert Leff and guard Alex Kozan graduating. Leff was one of the team’s top run blockers last year at right tackle starting 15 games.

While Darius James anchored the left side for much of the year, Austin Golson started the first four games of the season at left tackle. James is an early favorite to lock down a starting spot, but the coaching staff could easily elect to put him at righ tackle.

The competition at the position could last all the way until the opener considering high-profile true freshman Ashley isn’t arriving until May. The coaching staff promised Ashley a chance to compete for playing time this fall during his recruitment, a pledge coach Gus Malzahn reiterated on national signing day.

Auburn isn’t lacking for options with or without Ashley in the mix.

Offensive line coach Herb Hand could put Golson back at tackle if the team has confidence in backup center Kaleb Kim.

Braden Smith, who has started 27 straight games, could get a tryout at the spot. The offensive lineman would improve his draft stock thriving at tackle his senior year.

Auburn also has a number of underclassmen — Prince Michael Sammons, Tyler Carr, Bailey Sharp and Prince Tega Wanogho — looking to get into the mix.

Wanogho is a name to watch considering the rapid progress he’s made on the line.

Coach Gus Malzahn didn’t announce Wanogho was switching positions until SEC Media days. Wanogho was listed as the team’s backup right tackle by the end of the season.

Wanogho is ready to play wherever he’s needed after taking reps at left tackle during bowl practice.

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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