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March 21, 2010Auburn's spring practice begins Wednesday and all but four offensive starters will return from 2009.
The returning starters will be picking up where they left off, but a solid group of backups and two junior college transfers will battle over the next three-and-a-half weeks to win out the remaining spots.
All eyes will be on the quarterback position this spring. Four quarterbacks are scheduled to battle for the No. 1 spot vacated by Todd including top junior college transfer Cameron Newton.
Newton joined the Auburn squad in January after transferring from Blinn Community College in Texas. At approximately 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, the oversized, yet speedy, quarterback led the Buccaneers to a national championship last season. Going through spring practice will allow Newton to learn the intricacies of Gus Malzahn's playbook a semester early and build relationships with new teammates.
Three-year backup Neil Caudle, redshirt freshman Clint Moseley and sophomore Barrett Trotter are also in contention for the starting nod. Trotter is coming off an ACL injury that sidelined him for 2009, while Moseley redshirted last season.
Tyrik Rollison will not participate in spring practice and has elected to transfer to Sam Houston State, his father, Michael Kelly, said in late February.
Philip Lutzenkirchen got his inaugural touchdown out of the way early in his rookie season, so look for him to ease into the full-time role left vacant by Trott. Before the Outback Bowl, head coach Gene Chizik said Lutzenkirchen would take snaps as an H-back in addition to playing the traditional tight end role.
Brandon Mosley, a transfer from Kansas' Coffeyville Community College, signed with Auburn as a tight end and is currently enrolled on campus. He has since bulked up to 295 pounds and, with the loss of McCain at right tackle, could move to the offensive line. With Malzahn's proven taste for clever offensive plays, lining Mosley up as an eligible receiver could cause some headaches for the opposing defensive coordinator.
Auburn will boast an experienced offensive line with left tackle Lee Ziemba, center Ryan Pugh, left guard Mike Berry and right guard Byron Isom all coming back as seniors. Junior college transfer Roszell Gayden, 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, will be participating in spring practice to potentially fill the hole at right tackle. With the addition of Gayden, the average size of an Auburn offensive lineman is 6-foot-5, 305 pounds.
Auburn High graduate John Sullen returns for his sophomore season after starting the Ball State game and playing backup behind Berry last year. Vance Smith, who backed up McCain at right tackle, left the team in January because of medical reasons.
Even though this position lost its biggest producer in Tate, a handful of experienced and redshirted running backs return for 2010.
Onterio McCalebb will be a sophomore while Dontae Aycock will see action for the first time since redshirting as a freshman. The 5-foot-10, 220-pound Aycock's specific role in the running back corps will be determined this spring.
Mario Fannin is expected to see more of a traditional tailback role his senior season. Eric Smith was suspended for the Outback Bowl for academic issues, but will be going through spring practice. With Fannin's move to tailback, Smith could take over the H-back role.
Senior Terrell Zachery and junior Darvin Adams return for after starting the majority of last year's games. Emory Blake and DeAngelo Benton will be sophomores - they combined for 154 yards off 15 receptions in 2009.
Quindarius Carr is entering his junior year after recording two receptions for 78 yards and an Outback-Bowl touchdown. Sophomore Travante Stallworth will likely sit out of spring practice as he recovers from knee surgery.