AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — 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.
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“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.”