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Post-spring projections: Auburn’s offensive line

Auburn offensive lineman Austin Golson, No. 73, blocks linebacker Deshaun Davis during the program's spring game on April 9, 2016.
Auburn offensive lineman Austin Golson, No. 73, blocks linebacker Deshaun Davis during the program's spring game on April 9, 2016. mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Editor’s note: Projecting Auburn’s two-deep depth chart based on spring performance.

First team offensive line

Auburn has starting spots up for grabs going into the summer, but not on the offensive line.

Left tackle Austin Golson Left guard Alex Kozan Center Xavier Dampeer Right guard Braden Smith Right tackle Robert Leff

Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee didn’t label the group listed above as starters, but referred to them as the Tigers’ top five guys.

“I think we have a pretty good idea of who are top five guys are,” Lashlee said. “We just have to develop depth behind that. Five or six guys is probably a good way to put it. We have played Austin at a lot more tackle. He’s still capable of playing center. I think Xavier has done a nice job of playing center for us too. It just enables us to maybe get the five or six best guys out there as much as we can.”

The coaching staff spent the first two weeks of spring working returning starters at multiple positions — Smith at right tackle, Leff at both tackles, Dampeer at guard — but Golson’s time at left tackle wasn’t temporary.

The Ole Miss transfer impressed coaches on the outside pushing Darius James down the depth chart and Dampeer into the starting lineup at center.

“I think Austin can be as good as he wants to be,” Kozan said. “Before he transferred from Ole Miss, he was going to start at right tackle as a true sophomore. For him, he’s athletic enough to do it.”

Kozan also gave Dampeer high marks.

“He’s pretty strong and he’s pretty fast,” Kozan said. “But for him, it’s kind of been on the mental side; he’s really come along mentally as a player, really gotten his calls down, done a good job of helping direct the unit, so that’s where I’d say I’ve seen the biggest improvement.”

Second team offensive line

Auburn’s second group isn’t as settled as the team’s starters, but the numbers at the position give them few lineup options.

Left tackle Darius James Left guard Marquel Harrell Center Kaleb Kim Right guard Mike Horton Right tackle Tyler Carr

Jordan Diamond’s recent decision to leave the program leaves Auburn with 11 scholarship offensive linemen. The team has two signees at the position — Brodarious Hamm and Prince Sammons — but neither is likely to be a major contributor in the fall.

Hamm was recently diagnosed with cancer and the team doesn’t know when he will join the roster.

Much like Prince Tega Wanogho, Sammons football background is limited. He came to the United States when he was 15 years old from Nigeria and most teams recruited him to play defense.

As Auburn has worked to establish depth up front, Horton’s name keeps coming up as someone who could see meaningful playing time.

“Mike Horton has really come on for us,” Lashlee said. “He’s a guy that I think will help us and needs to help. Even though he didn’t play last year, he traveled, he was kind of in the two-deep. I think that helps sometimes even if he didn’t play and he’s really done some nice things so far.”

James, a transfer from Texas, is the only one in the group with any experience. He started two games with the Longhorns. The other four redshirted last season.

New offensive line coach Herb Hand is more concerned with the team’s depth at tackle than he is on the interior of the line.

“We've got to figure out that part of the equation,” Hand said. “We've got a little bit more experience inside, which is a real positive for us, and the way the tackles have responded so far and the way that they've played has been a positive as well. I'm pretty happy with where we're at. We've just got to keep getting better.”

Coming up (Tuesday, April 19): Projecting Auburn’s defensive line

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