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air jordan 5 Alex Kozan, already a leader on Auburn's offensive line, looking to improve after breakout year Auburn offensive lineman Alex Kozan (63) talks to the press Saturday, March 29, 2014, at the Auburn Athletic Complex in Auburn, Ala. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com)

-- Alex Kozan has come a long way in one season as a starter.Kozan, the only true newcomer to Auburn's offensive line last season, established himself as a rising star at left guard and an emerging team leader as only a sophomore.Few sophomores -- third-year or otherwise -- take on a clear leadership role that early in their careers, but Kozan's position as an influential voice is already sort of unquestioned, a development offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee pointed out in an offhand comment about the rise of Avery Young, one of Kozan's linemates, earlier this spring.

"I think he could develop into a big leader for us up there, along with Reese and Kozan," Lashlee said.

From the time Gus Malzahn arrived on campus, Dismukes has been an established vocal leader, a natural presence who served as a team captain last season.Any comparison to Dismukes shows what the coaches think of Kozan's leadership ability.

And his teammates have the same respect for the third-year sophomore.

"He's matured a whole lot," Young said. "A lot of us came in mature, but as far as going through his season, he's gotten a lot better. ... He's playing like a veteran."Kozan ended the only position battle on Auburn's offensive line early last August. A tough player with a good football acumen, Kozan's strength at the point of attack earned him the role over Devonte Danzey and Jordan Diamond within the first two weeks of training camp.The Valor Christian High (Colo.) product never looked back. Kozan started all 14 games between Dismukes and departed star Greg Robinson, fought through an injury midway through the season and earned Freshman All-SEC honors, plus a spot on the Sporting News' Freshman All-America team.But Kozan is far from satisfied."I think for me personally, I can become a way better player," Kozan said. "I look at the tape last year and I d have a good play every couple of plays, and then I d have a play where maybe I didn t do as well."Kozan's mistakes were largely minor, part of the growing process for a first-time starter in the SEC."I d see in games, when we re pacing, I d get lazy in my technique sometimes, and other times there s some beastly guys across the line from me," Kozan said. "A couple of times, those guys are going to make plays too. I d say just things that any young player battles, just trying to prove that and take the next step."Auburn offensive lineman Alex Kozan (63) and Auburn offensive lineman Shon Coleman (72) work out Tuesday, March 25, 2014, during spring football practice at the Auburn Athletic Complex in Auburn, Ala. (Julie Bennett/jbennett@al.com) Kozan knows he has to take on a larger role as a power player this season. No matter who wins the race for the starting left tackle job ---- the result won't be the same as working next to Robinson, a dominant player expected to be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft in May.Robinson's departure places a heavier load on Kozan's shoulders, a load he welcomes.After fighting for a starting job last offseason, Kozan now has his sights set on establishing himself as one of the SEC's best guards, cutting down mistakes and being more consistent."This year, it s focusing on every single snap and every single play, just executing," Kozan said. "Execution is the biggest thing and from there you just improve as player and get to where you want to get to."So far, Kozan appears to be well on his way.

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