Avery Young listens in on Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. -- Greg Robinson left early as the No. 2 pick in the NFL season, Alex Kozan is out for the season with an injury, Chad Slade has flipped from right guard to left guard and Avery Young has switched positons.
Auburn's offensive line shrugs off the changes, figuring Gus Malzahn won't be slowing down his full-speed-ahead offense for anybody.
"That's what the team is for," says Young. "When one guy falls, the next guy picks him up. That's the point of being together on the O-line."
Auburn's offensive line helped the Tigers lead the nation in rushing last season. People noticed. Robinson, a tackle, decided to leave after his redshirt sophomore season, and the St. Louis Rams happily drafted him. Kozan, who started 14 games at left guard last year, won't be back this season, either. He injured his back over the summer and had surgery.
Young is moving from tackle to guard, Patrick Miller steps up as a starting tackle again and Shon Coleman figures to start at the other tackle spot as offensive line coach J.B. Grimes gets a good look at players in multiple positions.
Put down the calculator. Auburn still returns an offensive line that has combined for 99 starts. Nobody seems to mind the changes, either.
"It's been good. It's just a good opportunity to get better at more than one position," Young said.
"Anywhere they put me at, I'm going to try my hardest and give my best."
Miller started at right tackle early last season. Then it was Young. Now, they both could be starting.
"We still work together as if I was a tackle. Nothing much has changed. I did play a little bit of guard in the spring, so I'm kind of used to it," Young said.
"It's not that big of a difference, just more pulling. There are a lot more big bodies in the interior line."
Auburn has a rock of stability in the line. Center Reese Dismukes returns for his fourth season as a starter. Slade is back, too.
He's helpful for a guy playing a new position.
"Sometimes, right before the play, I ask him what he's supposed to do, just to make sure I've got everything right," Young said.
Robinson went to the NFL as a tackle. Young said he's happy to try it at guard.
"I kind of looked forward to doing it, just to show that I'm versatile and am able to play all positions," he said. "I've got a year of tackle up under my belt, and we made it to the championship game, so I've got everything I could do from that position. I feel playing guard will just open up the window even more."
Auburn is pushing on with the changes in the offensive line, and Young says that's OK because the offense is ahead of last year when there was a break-in period with the new coaching staff.
"It's amazing how different things are compared to how it was last year at this time. We were confused. It took us like a week and a half to get two or three plays in just because it was fast-paced and everything with being able to read all that. Going through all the games and situations we went through makes it way easier," Young said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine