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SATURDAY, MARCH 17, 2007
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A-Day performances could fill vacancies
Auburn comes into spring finale with questions on offense

By Bradley Handwerger
bhandwerger@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

AUBURN — Backup quarterbacks Neil Caudle and Steven Ensminger will take the spotlight Saturday when Auburn goes through its annual A-Day spring football game.

But they won't be alone.

Maybe more than at any time in the recent past, Auburn's spring game will provide a true proving ground for players at several positions. However, few — if any — are on defense.

A-Day 2007 is all about the offense.

The Tigers' second-team quarterback spot isn't settled, while Caudle, Ensminger and Blake Field are competing for the position.

More importantly, Auburn hasn't figured out its starting offensive line.

Auburn assistant coach Hugh Nall isn't set on a top five. Neither is offensive coordinator Al Borges.

And that leaves head coach Tommy Tuberville in a worried state of mind.

Sure, he has six months
before the Tigers open the season against Kansas State at home Sept. 1.

But he would like to know where his team stands heading into the offseason.

"Hopefully, our backup quarterbacks will do a little better," Tuberville said. "We're going to script it where they have a chance and maybe play the backup quarterbacks with the No. 1 offensive line a little bit Saturday."

For now, Field owns the No. 2 spot. But Borges said Field hasn't been completely healthy for any of spring drills.

That doesn't mean Field, last season's backup, has lost the position.

"What it does is set the stage for the possibility," Borges said. "In fairness, you can't move a guy ahead of (Blake). If they don't do well, then it's a step backward. That position is still out there until someone takes it."

The offensive line, though, might be the biggest spot to watch in the game.

Auburn is replacing four starting linemen, and to this point, no one has taken solid ownership of a position.

Left tackle King Dunlap is the only returning starter. Center Jason Bosley played four games last season before injuring his knee. And that's about it when it comes to experience.

Junior Tyronne Green is slated for left guard, while redshirt freshman Mike Berry has come on this spring to move into the right guard spot, and junior Andrew McCain is playing at right tackle.

Green played sparingly as a backup last season. Berry hasn't played a collegiate snap, and McCain is on his third position since signing with Auburn.

However, Nall isn't as concerned as you might think. For now, he's looking only to find players he can trust.

"I want to find the five or six or seven guys that can play and then figure out in the fall where to work in the true freshman or guys that step up in the summer," Nall said.

Tuberville sounds more concerned than his position coach. As such, he said A-Day would be a game simulation. Three plays and if there's no first down, the team will be forced to punt.

"I think we've improved quite a bit, but putting them in a game situation will be interesting to see how they perform," Tuberville said. "I think that's the biggest thing we need to get out of A-Day is to see where we're at on the offensive line."

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