Auburn's biggest spring chore: Replacing 10 starters
By Collin Mickle
Special to The Daily
AUBURN — Change was in the air at the Auburn football complex Tuesday.
The Tigers opened spring practice with a two-hour workout, their first of 15. It promises to be a busy spring; AU must replace 10 starters on offense and defense, plus last year's place-kicker, punter and kickoff specialist.
There are plenty of candidates to fill those open spots, including a host of touted redshirt freshmen. But Tuesday's practice was more about the players who weren't there.
At least two Tigers won't be coming back.
Fullback Mike McLaughlin has given up football after multiple surgeries on his knees.
He'll remain on scholarship but won't count against Auburn's 85-scholarship limit.
Linebacker Hendrick Leverette already has left school and enrolled in a junior college.
Other absences are temporary. Cornerback Jerraud Powers, a former Decatur star, practiced Tuesday.
But Powers won't participate in any contact drills this spring after undergoing off-season surgery on his shoulder; neither will safety Lorenzo Ferguson, who also had shoulder surgery.
The status of linebacker Tray Blackmon and defensive end Alonzo Horton is iffier.
Neither player will participate in spring practice. Blackmon isn't enrolled. Tuberville told reporters earlier this month the sophomore is dealing with "personal problems."
Tuesday, Tuberville said he expected Blackmon to be back in school and with the team at the start of summer classes, May 15.
Horton is in school but may have a harder time getting back into Tuberville's good graces.
According to Tuberville, Horton will spend the spring focusing on academics.
"We'll figure out at the end of this semester if he'll make it through that," the coach said. "There's no use practicing somebody if they're not going to put in the work in the classroom."
Change is nothing new for Tristan Davis. The junior bounced back and forth from safety to running back in his first three seasons, switching positions at least three times.
Now he's on the move again, back to tailback.
He couldn't be happier.
"We need something exciting to happen on this offense, and I think I can be that guy for this team," said Davis, who ran 11 times for 209 yards in 2005.
"Deep down inside, I've always been a running back. I've just been a running back that's able to play defense in a lot of peoples' eye."
Tuberville said Davis' latest move was permanent.
He'll have a chance to compete for Kenny Irons' vacant starting job, along with junior Brad Lester, sophomore Ben Tate and redshirt freshman Mario Fannin.
Practice continues Wednesday at 4 p.m. The Tigers' first spring scrimmage is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.
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