AUBURN, Ala. — On the first day of Auburn's spring practice March 10, coach Gus Malzahn announced it was unlikely Alex Kozan would be able to participate in anything other than a limited capacity. Now, it appears that evaluation was a bit too conservative. Kozan, who sat out last season after having surgery on his back, was in full pads Tuesday and taking reps with the first-team offensive line.
While not going too far, Malzahn said Kozan has been able to do more and more each practice.
"We’re trying to slowly acclimate him. He’s not completely full but he’s dressed out most practices," the coach said. "(Tuesday) we had him out there doing some things. That was good."
Having Kozan back to 100 percent would give the Tigers a boost upfront. After redshirting as a freshman in 2012, the Colorado native had a breakout campaign in 2013 as Auburn captured the SEC championship and appeared in the BCS title game. Kozan started all 14 games at left guard that season, part of an offensive line that paved the way for the nation's top-ranked rushing offense.
Back at left guard this spring and with the first-team once again, the Tigers eagerly anticipate his return once the season kicks off this September.
"He’s got a year under his belt of experience and played in some big games and all that — the mental part," Malzahn said. "It’s just a matter of getting used to the speed of the game and everything that goes with it. He’s a very intelligent player. His football IQ is very high."