News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Auburn's King knows about having to sit

By Ross Dellenger 340-2460

AUBURN — Brandon Cox feels King Dunlap's pain. He's felt the humiliation, the shame, the grief that comes with being a benched senior starter who was replaced by a true freshman.

"I know what he's going through," Cox said Tuesday. "I know from a few weeks ago, what I went through. I try to give him as much advice as I can."

A two-year starter, Cox found himself benched for Auburn's game against New Mexico State.

He was replaced by true freshman quarterback Kodi Burns.

Dunlap sat beside Cox for that game. He suffered an elbow injury against Mississippi State the week before, but the real reason was easy to see. Like Cox, his play lacked the luster it once had, and, like Cox, he was replaced by an 18-year-old in Ryan Pugh.

And like Cox, he has another chance. An injury to starting center Jason Bosley has forced Pugh to shift from left tackle to center, moving Dunlap back into the picture as Saturday's starting left tackle.

"I was kind of disappointed about being out a few games," said Dunlap, a 6-foot-8, 312-pound Tennessee native. "I didn't want to miss any games, but you can only control what you can control."

Dunlap has a chance to show coaches he deserves to remain a starter when Auburn (4-2, 2-1 SEC) visits Arkansas (3-2, 0-2) this Saturday night.

"This is big for him. He knows it," said Cox, who won his starting job back after his play against New Mexico State. "He knows when he gets an opportunity, he has to take advantage of it."

Before missing the start against New Mexico State, Dunlap had started 16 straight games dating back to the 2006 opener. Named to the coaches' preseason all-SEC team, Dunlap was expected to be the leader of a young line.

Instead, Dunlap finished with the lowest evaluation grades among offensive linemen for the first two games of the season — quite embarrassing for the only returning starter on a line filled with inexperience.

"His fire is burning a little bit hotter," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said.

"He knows he has to pick his intensity up. When he injured his arm, the intensity wasn't there."

Dunlap injured his elbow in the first quarter against Mississippi State. He set out the rest of the game, a demoralizing 19-14 loss to the Bulldogs. The next week, he was replaced in the starting lineup by Pugh. He didn't even travel with the team for its game against Florida.

But when Bosley went down in the second quarter last week, Dunlap saw his chance.

"I missed two weeks," he said, "so I was anxious to get back on the field and show everybody what I can do."

Auburn at Arkansas

6:45 p.m.

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