FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia — Herb Hand sat down at an Auburn booster club Monday with a clear vision for the future.
Auburn’s offensive line coach already has an “idea” of who his starting five would be if the Tigers had to play a game this weekend. The lineup is not surprising, either, with Austin Golson leading the way at left tackle and Alex Kozan, Xavier Dampeer, Braden Smith and Robert Leff finishing the lineup from left to right.
The big question is who will be the sixth man off the bench that can move from position to position and provide the first-year Auburn offensive line coach options on the depth chart.
“Mike Horton could make an argument to be No. 6,” Hand told SEC Country. “Darius James could make an argument to be No. 6.”
Horton, a redshirt freshman, drew rave reviews as a true freshman and was placed in a similar position following fall camp in August. James, a five-star transfer from Texas, has plenty of work to do with his technique but is a force along the line at both tackle spots.
“What is our best combination then?” Hand said. “Is it sliding Austin back to center and bringing Darius in? Is it sliding Austin back to center and taking Robert Leff and putting him on the left side and moving Mike Horton up and Braden Smith over?”
This spring answered a lot of those questions and provided Hand with contingency plans heading into the summer months.
Dampeer’s emergence at center, where Golson started last season, has allowed Hand to move Golson to the left side, where he played and practiced previously at Ole Miss and Prattville High. The key is developing a strong sixth player and beyond in the offseason.
“Again, you come out of summer, that may change and certainly we get through the 29 practices that we have in fall camp leading up to the Clemson game, there’s a lot of things that have to transpire before we get to that point,” Hand said. “So, we do have some contingency plans but those are all things you have to keep in the back of your mind.”
Kaleb Kim exited the spring as the backup center behind Dampeer.
“If we were playing a game tomorrow, the sixth guy would either be Mike or it would be Darius,” Hand said.