Over the next few weeks, SEC Country will take Auburn football fans to Summer School. Each session will focus on one position on Auburn’s 2018 roster, finding answers from spring practice and looking ahead to what might be the biggest questions for the fall.
This week, we’re on the offensive line. Here’s the breakdown at right guard.
- Mike Horton (junior)
- Tashawn Manning (redshirt freshman)
- Kam Stutts (freshman — summer arrival)
Answers from spring practice
Will Mike Horton stay put at right guard?
As the Summer School breakdown on Wednesday noted, there was some chatter before spring practice that Mike Horton could move from guard to center this offseason. But while Auburn had the perfect opportunity to make Horton a full-time center because of a rash of injuries to a young group, Horton stayed at right guard.
The Tigers used Horton as a left guard last season, but they opted to keep Marquel Harrell there after Horton’s midseason injury. Still, Auburn has a player with a half-season of SEC experience in Horton, who rose from the ranks of the “sixth man” in 2016 to a strong starter when healthy in 2017.
How will Auburn add depth at guard?
Auburn’s numbers at offensive line were low following an exodus of seniors after the 2017 season and the arrival of only two newcomers in the 2018 recruiting class. The Tigers combated that issue in part by moving redshirt freshman defensive tackle Tashawn Manning to the offensive line in spring practice.
Manning spent the spring learning the basics, but he showed promise in terms of strength and acceleration up front. “Tay Boogie” could develop into a starter-quality offensive lineman for Auburn. For now, he has a spot on the second team at a position he just started playing.
Number to know
6: Horton started six straight games up front for Auburn in 2018. While that isn’t a huge number, the six itself has some significance. Through the first half of the season, Auburn constantly was moving bodies up front. The lone constant throughout the first six games was Horton.
Questions for fall
Can Horton be a stabilizing force next to a pair of first-time starters?
At right guard, Horton will be in a highly important spot in 2018. The two players next to him at center and right tackle will be first-time starters at Auburn, no matter the combination of Kaleb Kim, Nick Brahms, Calvin Ashley, Austin Troxell or Jack Driscoll.
Effective offensive line play relies heavily on experience and chemistry, so Horton’s presence can’t be understated. Without him, Auburn would have an entirely new side of an offensive line adjacent to a first-time starter at center. Horton should give his teammates confidence. Auburn will hope it’s enough to avoid a slow start in 2018.
Where does Kam Stutts fit into the offensive line?
Kam Stutts is one of two offensive line signees in 2018, the other being center Jalil Irvin from Stone Mountain, Ga. Auburn will not rely on Stutts to immediately contend for a starting job on the interior, where it seems the 6-foot-4, 329-pound Killen, Ala., native will play early in his career. He has the tools to be a strong guard with his athleticism and physical nature, especially in run blocking.
Stutts will most likely be behind two experienced guards: Harrell and Horton. A redshirt season looks likely, but he could impress enough in fall camp to earn his way into the two-deep depth chart. The work is already underway to develop a guard who some in the program believe was highly underrated.