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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2007
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ANALYSIS
Auburn appears to have replaced holes on offense

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

On its front page, Rivals.com has a countdown ticker marking the time left before signing day festivities.

Some mark the occasion with parties, getting together at houses or apartments and charting who signs where.

Others meet at restaurants for lunch and some
camaraderie with fellow fans.

And Auburn, well, if all goes according to plan, the coaching staff should throw a luau. (Lord knows, the offensive coordinator has the correct attire.)

Why is that?

Well, in the recent recruiting season, Auburn restocked most everything that needed replacing.

Most likely, anyway, because the public commitments are non-binding, and by the time your read this, one or two or three of the teenagers could have changed their minds.

Still, even with some unexpected signing day switches, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff have done what they've needed to do.

No five-star recruits are planning on going to Auburn, but what else is new?

What Tuberville and his staff have done during the years is take several four-stars, combine them with a bunch of three-stars, and mold them into a winning combination.

Remember, he is 33-5 the past three seasons.

This class fills holes, as previously mentioned.

The offensive line lost four starters to graduation this year — Ben Grubbs, Tim Duckworth, Joe Cope and Jonathan Palmer — and, add that to the two lost after the 2005 season — Marcus McNeill and Troy Reddick — and Auburn needed linemen.

It got some, and more.

In fact, Rogers, Ark., offensive lineman Lee Ziemba (6-foot-7, 295 pounds) is expected to help out right away.

He has got the size and apparently has the skill to start almost immediately for an SEC school.

Also, you can add Kyle Coulahan (6-4, 320), Jared Cooper (6-4, 287) and Ryan Pugh (6-2, 275) — all big recruits for the Tigers.

Those guys won't be blocking for Kenny Irons, who used up his eligibility this year. So Auburn needed another running back to add to its stable, and if all goes according to plan, they'll get another big-time player.

Enrique Davis, a highly touted back out of Lynn Haven, Fla., is a guy who gives the Tigers that depth. At 5-11, 212 pounds, he reportedly can run the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds.

Also, because the bulk of Auburn's game-ready defensive backs are upperclassmen, the Tigers needed help in the secondary for the future.

When Michael McNeill and Ryan Williams sign on the dotted line Wednesday as expected, Auburn will get two of the best in the Southeast. Both are from Mobile.

McNeil, 6-2 and 200 pounds, is an athletic safety who is exactly what defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is looking for. He chose Auburn over Florida State and Alabama, which made a late push after Nick Saban took the head coaching job in Tuscaloosa.

And Williams (5-11, 182) is an athletic shutdown cornerback who eventually can replace David Irons.

Lastly, Auburn could be in for some surprises when all is said and done Wednesday.

The Tigers are still making a push for Mobile receiver Brandon Gibson, who won't announce where he'll go until Wednesday. And Miami linebacker Josh Bynes is still considering Auburn. His signing would give a big boost to already superb class.

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