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Postion battles in spotlight

AUBURN – The inclement weather has come and gone. Sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70’s are forecast for Auburn’s annual A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium today.

True freshman Reese Dismukes is working to be the starting center/Todd Van Emst photo

Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

The 2011 Tigers, minus most of their highly regarded incoming freshman class, will be on public display for the first time. The “game” will be a scrimmage with a system that allows the defense to score points for significant plays.

Many of those incoming freshmen will be on hand to watch. They will be joined by a glittering list of prospects.

It’ll be the 14th test of spring practice for a team dominated by talented but inexperienced players who will be called on to play major roles when the Tigers open defense of their national championship against Utah State on Sept. 3. Some three dozen of the players who were on the field in Glendale, Ariz., for the BCS Championship Game are gone.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof says he will look at fundamentals and effort more than he will look at the scoreboard.

“You evaluate tracking angles and those types of things,” Roof said. “The offense isn’t going to do everything they are going to do and we’re not going to do everything we are going to do next season. It is certainly an important day, because you have an opportunity to get better. As a coach, as a player as a unit, we can’t waste an opportunity. Wasted opportunities come back and bite you.”

Roof says few starting positions have been claimed, and most won’t be before preseason practice in August. But spring practice, which will end Monday, has been valuable for a team that must replace 16 starters.

“I think we’ve made a lot of strides,” Roof said. We’re certainly not where we need to be, but I think we have a good indication of where we are so we know how to proceed with a plan for the summer, what our guys can handle, what we are good at, what we need to move on. I think it has given us an accurate picture of where we are, because the tape doesn’t lie.”

He and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn will also watch with interest to see how players react to playing in front a large crowd.

“Yeah, it’s a real good thing, because that’s what they are going to have to do next year,” Roof said. “A good lesson is to be able to block all that out. Those people aren’t making any catches. They aren’t sacking anybody. They aren’t tackling anybody. To be able to block that out and concentrate on the task at hand is what we are looking for.”

Malzahn will play particular attention to Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley, locked in a tight race to be the starting quarterback. The passing game could be a challenge with winds of 19 miles per hour in the forecast.

“We have so many young guys, so many inexperienced guys,” Malzahn said. “For a lot of them, it will be their first time in front of a crowd. They’ll do one of two things: They’ll rise to the occasion or you will see they are nervous. We’ll find out a lot as coaches to see where we are and see if they are ready.

“It’s probably more important to the quarterbacks than the others. They are dealing with a lot of communication, dealing with the ball every snap. No doubt about that.”

Some other position battles to watch:

CENTER: Junior Blake Burgess and true freshman Reese Dismukes are neck-and-neck.

WIDE RECEIVER: Junior Emory Blake is set as a starter. Junior DeAngelo Benton, senior Quindarius Carr, junior Travante Stallworth and redshirt freshman Trovon Reed are jockeying for position.

DEFENSIVE END: Sophomore Nosa Eguae returns on the strong side. On the weak side, sophomore Corey Lemonier and junior Dee Ford have designs on the starting job.

LINEBACKER: Junior Daren Bates seems set as a starter. No one else is in that position. Sophomore Jake Holland, senior Eltoro Freeman, junior Jonathan Evans and redshirt freshman Ladarius Owens all remain in the running.

CORNERBACK: Junior T’Sharvan Bell is set as a starter. Sophomores Chris Davis and Ryan White and true freshman Jonathan Rose want to join him.

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