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.
6. Xavier Dampeer, center
Xavier Dampeer waited a long time for this moment. He’ll finally get his time to shine thanks to his improvement catching the eye of new offensive line coach Herb Hand.
Many assumed Austin Golson would start at center for a second straight season, but Dampeer’s emergence has allowed Hand to move Golson to left tackle, where the loss of Shone Coleman was a major void heading into the spring. The move allowed Dampeer to step in at center and play some guard during the spring, providing Auburn some versatility along the offensive line.
Hand feels good about his five starters — Golson, Alex Kozan, Dampeer, Braden Smith and Robert Leff — but finding a solid sixth or seventh option will need to be developed in preseason camp.
Dampeer’s versatility and emergence at center made a good situation better for the Tigers in the trenches. The line didn’t miss a step with Dampeer taking the reins at center. That’s good news for the Tigers, who have been spoiled with solid play at center and left tackle since Gus Malzahn arrived in 2013.
The Tigers should do just fine at both positions this season thanks to Dampeer’s progression after his season came to an abrupt end in early 2015, when receiver Duke Williams broke his jaw in a fight.
Coming Monday: The best
- No. 25 — Josh Holsey, cornerback/safety
- No. 24 — Leonard Fournette, LSU running back
- No. 23 — Rudy Ford, safety
- No. 22 — Chandler Cox, H-Back
- No. 21 — Paul James III, defensive end
- No. 20 — Kamryn Pettway, H-Back
- No. 19 — Kirby Smart, Georgia coach
- No. 18 — Austin Golson, offensive tackle
- No. 17 — Marlon Davidson, defensive end
- No. 16 — Carlton Davis, cornerback
- No. 15 — T.J. Neal, linebacker
- No. 14 — Tre’ Williams, linebacker
- No. 13 — Nick Saban, Alabama coach
- No. 12 — Eli Stove, receiver
- No. 11 — Jason Smith, receiver
- No. 10 — Marcus Davis, receiver
- No. 9 — Kyle Davis, receiver
- No. 8 — Kevin Steele, defensive coordinator
- No. 7 — Montravius Adams, defensive tackle