Alex Kozan looking for a bounce-back season in 2015 at Auburn
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. ― Maybe if Alex Kozan carried around his football resume his fellow students would know he was once a freshman All-American and enters this football year on a preseason watch list for a prestigious national award.
Maybe. But maybe not. Auburn's Alex Kozan says he knows the spotlight sometimes doesn't shine where he plays football.
"Not so much for me. I'm a lineman," he said. "The real fans, I'll get a 'War Eagle' or two probably every day. It's not bad for me. It's the guy who carry the ball who have to bat 'em away."
The casual observer may not recognize Kozan walking around campus, but the Outland Trophy recognized him by putting him on its watch list for the nation's top lineman, though he didn't play a down of football last year as he recovered from back surgery.
Today, "I feel like I’m 100 percent, yes sir," Kozan said.
Kozan's last game was the 2013 national championship game against Florida State.
"Some ways it seems like a long time ago, and some ways it seems like it was just yesterday," Kozan said. "Getting back out there will be exciting for me. I'm ready to get after it."
He'll get a chance Sept. 5 when Auburn opens the season against Louisville in the Georgia Dome in an offensive line that will feature Shon Coleman, Devonte Danzey, Avery Young, Xavier Dampeer, Austin Golson, Braden Smith, Robert Leff, Deon Mix, Will Adams, or some combination thereof.
Kozan figures to play a significant role.
"Every day I'm getting a little better at something, and I'm still kind of figuring out how good I can be," he said. "Every day I'm becoming a better player. In the Florida State game, I had all my timing down, all my muscle memory was down and I could just — wasn’t even thinking, just playing the game. When you miss a year of football, you miss a lot of things, so for me I’ve been trying to jumpstart all that and catch up and get back to where I was. About now I feel pretty close to where I was then, if not better."
Kozan said he started finding his football rhythm again in spring practice. He said he's put the injury behind him.
"I haven't personally been worried that anything is going to happen. I've never really felt anything in my back since I’ve come back from my injury," he said.
Still, Auburn has been careful in practice
"We've brought him along slowly, and we've done that on purpose," said offensive line coach J.B. Grimes. "We wanted to make sure we kept him fresh. We split reps between him and Devonte Danzy during the course of this camp, and I think it worked out well for both of them. Both guys came in with issues, and what we have done is keep both guys ready. We're going to need both guys this whole season that's for sure 12 games, we hope 13, we hope 14, we hope 15. You've got to have depth.
"Alex has continued to improve. Early on, you could tell he had taken a year off. It showed early. But the good news is a lot of that rust has been knocked off, and we're starting to get a shiny penny there. I'm seeing things where he's back to the form where he was in 2013."
Kozan's scouting report on the offensive line goes like this:
"I think the group’s getting better every practice. I think Austin Golson is starting to take charge more and more every practice, getting the line directed how we need to get it directed. That was one of the things, maybe the first practice of fall camp he wasn’t perfect at, but you can’t expect him to be. As the camp has gone along and we’ve gotten closer to the games I’ve got great confidence in Austin. Braden’s getting better every practice. Avery and Shon have been really locked in. Me and Devonte have been battling, trying to get better every practice, too."
Grimes says Kozan and Danzy will both play.
"I think we've got to play both of those guys, if nothing else from a stamina standpoint," Grimes said. "I don't think either will be able to play a 75-snap-a-game 12-game season and be able to hold up. We're going to have to have substitutions."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine