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Braden Smith: Transition to tackle a no-brainer for longtime fixture on Auburn’s offensive line

Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith, No. 71, is starting out spring practie at right tackle with the first team offense.
Auburn offensive lineman Braden Smith, No. 71, is starting out spring practie at right tackle with the first team offense. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Braden Smith might have the talent to play any position on the offensive line.

Auburn is going to put that theory to the test this spring.

Smith, who has started 27 consecutive games at right guard, is auditioning to be Robert Leff’s replacement at right tackle.

“Braden looks good anywhere he is, I think,” Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. “He’s special player, special guy, great person, first one in the meeting room, all the intangibles are there. Just really been impressed with him.”

Lindsey gave Smith’s early work at the position a thumbs up after the team’s fourth practice — “I really like what he’s doing right now” — but Auburn coaches didn’t expect anything less from the All-SEC lineman.

“Braden has played tackle some in his career, and I think, obviously, he’s one of the best linemen, I think, in our league,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “How versatile he is will help our team, and it will also help him at the next level.”

Smith could have been one of the top prospects at guard in this year’s NFL draft if he left Auburn early, but the Kansas native came back for his senior season because he thought the program had a “shot to do something special” and the soft-spoken lineman is leading the way.

“There’s a need at tackle, so I’m going to try my best to kind of work it out,” Smith said. “Just do my best to fill the position.”

Smith acknowledged there will be challenges to the transition but views Auburn’s 15 spring practices as a way to work through the growing pains.

“I mean, it’s just a new spot,” Smith said. “It’s going to be different than guard, of course. It will be more oriented toward pass protection at that position. It’s still going to be heavy run block, but I’ll be going more against pass rushers, speed rushers and things like that.”

Smith also has to adapt to the changes Lindsey is making to the offense.

“It’s a little bit different with the terminology,” Smith said. “It’s a little bit different with the wrinkles that are going in. But, I mean, basically, he’s trying to get that all installed. I think he’s going to do really good things for the program.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra

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