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Avery Young stepping up to fill leadership void on Auburn offensive line

AUBURN, Ala. — If Avery Young decided to say, "Here we go again," it would be understandable. Every time the rising fourth-year junior thinks he'll get a chance to move away from right tackle, he ends right back where he started. Last spring, he started to alternate between guard and tackle.

When Auburn began fall camp, however, he took his repetitions almost exclusively at right guard. That's where he started the first three games of the 2014 season before flipping to left guard in Game No. 4 versus LSU. Aside from starting there, it was a short-lived stint; after Patrick Miller got injured in the first quarter, Young moved back to right tackle, the same spot he held down for the last nine games of 2013, when the Tigers captured the SEC title and came within 13 seconds of winning the BCS championship.

Once Auburn got down to Tampa, Fla., for the Outback Bowl last December, Young was confident: he was going to play guard in 2015.

But as the Tigers opened spring practice Tuesday, Young found himself back at right tackle. Again.

Not that he minded.

"I love it," he said. "I don’t feel like I missed a step on it.”

When pressed for more detail as to whether it surprised him that he had been moved to right tackle once more, Young said he didn't want to "jinx himself" by revealing too much.

"Ain't no telling what could happen these next few weeks," he said, "but I’m just enjoying it while I can.”

It was far from certain that Young would even be back this year, though. He submitted his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board to get feedback. Ironically, Young said he didn't even remember what draft grade he got back.

"They do things different now as far as telling you what round and things you have to improve," he said. "So I don’t really have a set answer for that.”

Now that he's returned for another go-round, Young has cut weight. He was listed at 315 pounds on last year's roster and was planning to keep that weight on — as he assumed he would be playing inside.

Upon receiving word he'd matriculate back to tackle, though, he knew he needed to be a bit lighter on his feet. Though the Tigers' spring roster still puts him at 315 pounds, Young said he was closer to 305 the last time he stepped on a scale.

"Now that I'm back out there on the edge I want to cut off a little bit just so I can get my feet right," he said, adding he doesn't have a set playing weight in mind. "As long as I stay in the 300s, it's all good."

His goals for the spring are same ones trotted out by many players: getting stronger and fine-tuning all parts of his game. Those objectives aside, it's fair to say this spring is one of transition for Young. After spending the past three years learning under Reese Dismukes and Chad Slade, he's now being looked at as an "old guy."

It wasn't a designation he took kindly to, either.

"Aw, man, don’t say that," he said. "That came around real fast.”

He's confident he'll be able to fill that leadership void left by Dismukes and Slade, noting with amazement that he knows more about the game, the team and how to execute in pressure situations than he ever imagined. Just don't ask him to turn into a rah-rah guy.

That's not his style.

“I’m still myself," he said. "I ain't that loud, rowdy type of person, but when I see a guy that needs help, I’m able to help him now because I know the game so well now.”

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