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Auburn DL Jeff Whitaker undergoes leg surgery, return uncertain

Auburn defensive lineman Jeff Whitaker, an NFL hopeful who has earned a spot on the Senior Bowl watch list, has undergone surgery for a leg problem that Auburn coach Gus Malzahn declined to be specific about.

It could keep one of the team's emotional leaders off the field for the entire season, or he could return. As reports, the amount of time Whitaker will require to return to the field is an unknown as the Tigers enter the second week of the season.

Malzahn indicated anything is possible in addressing whether Whitaker could take a redshirt this season and return to the Tigers for a fifth year of eligibility in 2014.

"We're going to see where we're at with Jeff each week," Malzahn said. "Hopefully we can get him back sooner rather than later, but if that does happen, we'll have that conversation (about redshirting). We've not had that conversation yet. Jeff is a leader on our team, if not the leader, and he's very important to us as a whole."

Whitaker (6-4, 310) had his best season in 2011 as a sophomore, with 25 tackles, two for losses, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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