Malzahn: OL got ‘better and better’
AUBURN | There are still some questions to answer on Auburn’s offensive line, but Gus Malzahn is bullish on the group coming off of 15 spring practices.
“I feel good about our first offensive line,” said Malzahn, the Tigers’ sixth-year head coach. “You saw those guys get better and better and start working together.”
The first-team offensive line is led by three players with starting experience in left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho, left guard Marquel Harrell and right guard Mike Horton. Perhaps the most important development of the spring was the improvement of Wanogho, who started just one of the final six games last season after Austin Golson moved to left tackle.
“Prince Tega is a guy, I said last week, he’s really taken that next step and really I see the leadership,” Malzahn said. “Then you’ve got Marquel Harrell and Mike Horton that have starts and experience and all that.
“That offensive line, especially the first-team offensive line, is really starting to come together. That was encouraging the last week of spring.”
A talented and deep defensive line deserves some of the credit for the offensive line’s improvement. There’s really no choice going up against that group everyday.
“There’s some missing pieces right now but this spring actually helped the offensive line get better because they actually do move the ball against us,” junior defensive end Marlon Davidson said. “Them having those gaps and opening them up against our defense, that’s impressive.”
And Davidson is adamant that Auburn’s defensive line doesn’t let up on their teammates during practice.
“If I’m going out there and competing, I’m competing. I’m not just going to go out there and lay down and just let somebody beat me. I’m not. That’s our defense. We’re different,” Davidson said.
But the first-team offensive line remains incomplete with starting positions still to be won at center and right tackle. Auburn’s two scholarship centers, Kaleb Kim and Nick Brahms, had their spring come to a premature end due to injuries, but both are expected back for preseason practice.
Austin Troxell ended spring with the first-team at right tackle but remains in a close race with Calvin Ashley.
“Austin really has come on. I’m very impressed with him,” Malzahn said. “Him and Calvin Ashley, there’s some great competition there. That’s two talented guys and they’re starting to come on.”
The emergence of Troxell, a redshirt freshman, was an important development for the offense this spring.
“He’s getting stronger, way bigger now. He was already a big kid coming in,” Davidson said. “He was on the scout team last year working against us and that helped him too. Now going in the spring against us and taking the starter’s reps, switching out him and Calvin — he’s improved as well.”