December 20, 2006

With Blackmon, Sears out, others stepping up

With starter Tray Blackmon and key backup Kevin Sears suspended for the Cotton Bowl, Auburn assistant coach James Willis needs at least a couple of his linebackers to step up during bowl practice.

Fortunately, several have done just that.

As expected, sophomore Merrill Johnson has taken Blackmon's starting spot at Will linebacker while sophomore Steve Gandy has stepped up his play behind Johnson.

It's been a long road back for Gandy who suffered compartment syndrome after taking a hard hit on his thigh during preseason practice. After several surgeries to drain fluid and 100 stitches to repair the wound, he's finally playing at the level Willis expected this fall.

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