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Big Braden Smith's role expanding at Auburn
Oct. 19, 2014

Braden Smith workds hard through an Auburn practice

By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala.  He's 6-foot-6 and 300-and-something pounds, so he's big enough. He's a handful, or how would you like to try to get around him? 

So why not put Braden Smith in at tight end to block somebody?

Auburn did just that in the last game, shifting the big tackle from Shon Coleman's backup to the end of the line, at least for a few plays, and the freshman from Kansas may be in store for more when Auburn returns from a bye week to entertain South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"They felt like I could help out playing as an extra lineman/tight end on some plays on short yardage," Smith said. "I felt like I could get the job done and so did they, so I think I helped out pretty good."

Smith said he could improve, but playing the position "was definitely a starting ground."

Smith even got a taste of playing guard during the bye week when Auburn was resting its starters. He says he never really played tight end before, at least not a pass-catching tight end. His role in his first try was limited to blocking, coming in for C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse. Smith says he's OK with that. "What role what I can play to help them out in any way?" he asked.

Coach Gus Malzahn called him "ultra-talented," even before the season began. 

Auburn isn't calling Smith's occasional play at tight end a shift in strategy for him.

"But he's played some big downs, especially on the third down and short package, in the last game," Malzahn said. "He graded out pretty good."

"We just felt like," said offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, "in some more of the short-yardage package situations last game, Braden could get movement. He can really drive a guy if he gets his pads set on him. We felt like it was good to incorporate him in the third-down package. We'll look at that more this week. Does that role expand? How does it expand? When he was in there, I thought he did really well."

Smith is big and strong enough to move people around. He's the tallest player on the team. And he said, in the weight room, he has lifted 575 twice. 

He's played in five games, but the last game brought him before the media.

"It definitely helps he gets some game experience," he said. "You accumulate some confidence by actually getting out there and playing over time. As the season goes, I got even more confident and even more confident in my play."

Auburn made a late recruiting push for Smith after Greg Robinson decided to leave for the pros. That's when offensive line coach J.B. Grimes called what some recruiting services called the No. 1 guard in the country.

"He's a straight-forward guy telling me they were losing a tackle. They had that little bit of need," Smith said. "It's nice going to a school that needs you at that position that I felt like I could help. He's a great coach. I saw he does some great things with players. You want to get coached by a guy like that."

But Smith received no promises.

"I just knew I was going to have to start from the bottom and work to wherever I could get to," he said.

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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