Editor’s Note: It’s a crucial year in Auburn. Gus Malzahn enters his fourth season in a bit of a rut, but he has proven he can quickly change the trajectory of the program when his team’s back is against the wall.
Auburn needs to find a quarterback, develop receivers and lean on a defense many expect to be much improved under coordinator Kevin Steele. Will all of the pieces come together in time for a successful season?
SEC Country takes a look at the 25 Most Important Tigers (and others) who will determine whether Auburn’s season is a success or failure.
18. Austin Golson, offensive tackle
Everyone assumed Austin Golson would start a second straight year at center, but the emergence of Xavier Dampeer at center has provided Auburn the opportunity to move Golson to left tackle.
The Tigers have big shoes to fill with the departure of Shon Coleman to the NFL. Offensive line coach Herb Hand believes Golson, who played tackle at Ole Miss and in high school, could be the answer.
“That was one of the real positives coming out of spring,” Hand told SEC Country. “There are two aspects to that equation: One, is Austin feeling comfortable to play out on the perimeter? It’s a different game out there as compared to playing at center. So, him having the ability to do that, which I know he’s done it in the past as well, but that’s one part of the equation.
“Damper (is) really gaining a lot of confidence and a lot of communication and there’s a lot of things that X did really well throughout the course of spring that allowed us to even look at the move.”
Plans could change, especially if Dampeer begins to struggle at center, but the plan for now is to leave Golson at tackle. And, to be honest, the move makes a lot of sense. He was taller (6-foot-5, 314 pounds) than most centers across the country, and though he displayed the bend and versatility needed to play center, he looks more natural at guard or tackle.
The question is whether Golson can live up to the expectations of previous tackles at Auburn. Gus Malzahn has had it good over the last three years with Greg Robinson and Coleman protecting the blind side.
Coming Wednesday: Fresh feet