Auburn Football: Tigers O-Line Searching for Right Mix

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterApril 8, 2014

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn head coach Gus MalzahnDavid J. Phillip

One of the biggest (literally) questions facing the Auburn offense in 2014 is, who's going to replace Greg Robinson at left tackle?

The 6'5", 320-pounder locked down quarterback Nick Marshall's blind side and was a big part of the success Auburn's running game had off tackle and off the edge in 2013.

Former Auburn LT Greg Robinson
Former Auburn LT Greg RobinsonKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

But while the loss of Robinson—who's slated by B/R's Matt Miller to go second overall in the upcoming NFL draft—will deservedly dominate headlines, four of Auburn's five starters along the offensive line are returning.

Just maybe not in familiar places.

Junior Patrick Miller and sophomore Shon Coleman have been battling at left tackle, but Miller jumped over to the right side, according to AL.com's Brandon Marcello. When he did, that moved Avery Young—last year's starter at right tackle—inside to right guard, relegating returning starter Chad Slade to second team.

Experiment?

Apparently not, because Miller again worked at right tackle during Tuesday's practice, according to James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser

Offensive line remains Coleman-Kozan-Dismukes-Young-Miller

— James Crepea (@JamesCrepea) April 8, 2014

So what does this mean for Auburn's offensive line?

It means that replacing Robinson isn't an issue, and that Shon Coleman is the front-runner.

Auburn OT Shon Coleman
Auburn OT Shon ColemanPhoto Credit: 247Sports.com

The 6'6", 310-pounder came to Auburn as a hot-shot recruit, but as B/R's Justin Ferguson pointed out in his tremendous feature on offensive tackle, Coleman battled through acute lymphoblastic leukemia before finally arriving on the Plains to start his career.

He has long arms, a solid base and is fully capable of filling in for Robinson.

"Shon is one of the toughest run-setters I’ve ever seen in my life," defensive tackle Gabe Wright said (via: Ferguson). "It’s like hitting a brick wall with a hammer. If you ever thought Greg was strong, Shon is probably two times stronger than Greg."

Two times?

That may be a stretch because, let's be honest, two times stronger than Greg Robinson is pretty much impossible.

Regardless of how strong Coleman may or may not be, it appears that he's winning (or possibly already won) the starting left tackle spot, and that 6'7", 289-pound Miller impressed enough in the battle to force the offensive staff to search for a home for him.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn
Auburn head coach Gus MalzahnChris Carlson

This is what's called a "rich man's problem" for head coach Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee. They've already solved their biggest issue along the offensive line, are comfortable with the rest of the pieces already in place but are trying to improve the unit up front by moving pieces around.

One of the players on the move appears to be the 6'6", 309-pound Young, which is great news for him and for Auburn. He's big enough to be a solid straight-ahead blocker, but athletic enough to be effective when he pulls—which is a staple of Malzahn's offense. 

This is great news for Auburn, because while running back Tre Mason and quarterback Nick Marshall stole the headlines last season, a big part of Auburn's success stemmed from the offensive line's ability to consistently win the line of scrimmage.

It looks like the Tigers are well on their way to doing the same with the new-look offensive line, even if some familiar faces are in new places.

 

*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report.