Auburn’s VanGorder: Injured players face challenge

Auburn defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said the onus is on

injured players to catch up and reclaim their spots.

A number of key defenders missed all or part of VanGorder’s

first spring with the Tigers because of injuries, including

defensive linemen Nosa Eguae, Kenneth Carter and Gabe Wright. It

put them behind in learning a new system, especially when the line

earned the most praise from VanGorder even without them.

”They’re depth guys at this point,” he said Thursday. ”They

offer us depth and they’ve got to come in and compete to earn that.

They’re obviously guys who have played, so there’s obviously an

advantage for all of us understanding that.

”Right now, we have to view them as guys who give us depth and

determine, going into the first game, how many plays Nosa will give

us. How many plays do we want Kenny to give us? That’s how we have

to look at it.”

He said that missed time won’t be easy to overcome.

VanGorder and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler discussed

their first spring in separate sessions with Auburn beat writers.

The Tigers wrapped up practice Monday with plenty of position

battles carrying over, including quarterback.

Defensive backs T’Sharvan Bell, Demetruce McNeal and Erique

Florence and linebacker Jonathan Evans were also among the

sidelined defenders.

Even short-handed, the defensive line showed the most progress

during the spring, VanGorder said. Tackle Jeff Whitaker showed an

ability to get into the backfield more frequently after dropping 22

pounds before the spring.

”I never expected for him to perform and do the things he did

in spring ball based on watching last year’s film,” VanGorder

said. ”What I had in my mind and what I thought his role would be,

he changed my mind in respect to that, which is a credit to him.

Was it weight? I don’t know. If it was the weight, that’s a good

thing. He needs to keep that in mind during the offseason.”

End Dee Ford, who missed most of last season with a back injury,

took advantage of Eguae’s absence. He was defensive MVP of the

spring game.

”He’s definitely an impact player,” VanGorder said.

VanGorder touched on other key players and positions, too.

Auburn’s already thin linebacking corps sustained a blow when

Jawara White gave up football due to injury problems. VanGorder

said there are no plans for moving players to shore up the

position, but freshmen Cassanova McKinzy and Javiere Mitchell

”absolutely” could compete for roles in August.

He thinks Jermaine Whitehead’s switch to safety is one of the

more interesting situations. Whitehead played nickelback and

cornerback last season.

”I think Jermaine will have a very important role as we go into

fall camp,” VanGorder said. ”You may see him playing all three of

those positions.”

The most intriguing situation remains on offense. Loeffler said

he’s in no rush to resolve the starting quarterback battle between

Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley. Frazier has scant game passing

experience, but Moseley was limited by a sore shoulder much of the

spring.

”There’s situations that I’ve been a part of, numerous

situations, where the competition lasted all the way through the

last week of training camp,” Loeffler said. ”I don’t know if

there’s any significance whatsoever in terms of if we wait until

the last week of August – I don’t see any relevance in that –

unless we have an established guy that has started for two to three

years. Then there’s some value to it. But that’s not our situation

right now.”