SEC spring position battles: Auburn Tigers

Spring practice means there are starting jobs up for grabs across the country. We continue our team-by-team look at the SEC's top position battles with the Auburn Tigers.

1. Quarterback: Another spring, another quarterback battle. The last time Auburn knew who its quarterback was going to be before spring practice was 2007, when two-year starter Brandon Cox returned for his senior year. This year is unique, though. Both Jeremy Johnson and Sean White earned starts for the Tigers last year, and both are back on campus this spring. One of those two should then win the job, right? Not so fast. Johnson and White struggled for most of the 2015 season, and as a result, the entire offense struggled. In turn, Gus Malzahn and his staff are giving junior-college transfer John Franklin III – a Nick Marshall look-alike – every chance to win the starting job. Redshirt freshman Tyler Queen is also in the mix. Unlike last year, don’t expect a decision to come immediately after the spring.

2. Offensive tackle: The offensive line was supposed to be a strength this coming season, but Auburn had both starting tackles leave early for the NFL. Now new O-line coach Herb Hand has been forced to experiment with different players at different positions this spring to find the best replacements. At left tackle, Texas transfer Darius James is currently in a battle with Austin Golson, the team’s center from a year ago. James, who had to sit out all of last year, has impressed his coaches and his teammates since coming to Auburn. On the other side, Robert Leff seems entrenched at right tackle, though starting guard Braden Smith has taken some reps outside and could be a possible candidate as well. The Tigers also have a handful of redshirt freshmen, including Bailey Sharp and Tyler Carr, who will likely serve as depth.

3. Cornerback: We know Carlton Davis will be one of the two starting cornerbacks. He was one of the SEC’s best freshmen a year ago, and he led the team with three interceptions. As for the other cornerback spot, it’s anybody’s guess. Among those competing this spring are Jamel Dean, Javaris Davis, Tim Irvin and early enrollee John Broussard. Dean transferred to Auburn last year after he was ruled medically ineligible at Ohio State before playing a down for the Buckeyes, and he has quickly shot up the depth chart to the point where he was working with the first-team defense last week. Irvin is the only one of the four that has any experience, but coaches might want to keep him at nickel, where he played in 10 games last season.