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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Late night notes: Despite impressive stats, Grimes thinks offensive line has room to improve

Auburn’s offensive line has received plenty of praise lately, appropriately so considering the group is paving the way for the Tigers to average 307.7 rushing yards per game, fourth most nationally.

But offensive line coach Jeff Grimes doesn’t think the veteran group has reached its full potential yet.

“We haven’t arrived yet,” he said. “We’re not to the point that I think we can be.”

In their last five SEC games, the Tigers have rushed for 334, 311, 330, 440 and 343 yards, thanks to seniors Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Ryan Pugh and Byron Isom.

But Grimes thinks there are little things the group can do better technique-wise that could up those totals.

“There are times where we’ll execute a particular scheme or a particular technique really, really well against some really, really good defensive players,” he said. “And then there are other times, maybe even the same game, maybe even the next play, where it doesn’t quite look the same for a variety of reasons.”

Auburn is on pace for 4,307 rushing yards if it plays 14 games this season, which would shatter the school record of 3,438 set in 1985.

Does that make this the best group Grimes has worked with?

“I’m not willing to say that yet,” he said. “Let’s wait until the season’s over and then we’ll see.”

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Here are some more notes and quotes:
  • Auburn went in shells Wednesday. It was a little bit colder out. "When you're used to so many days in the humidity and the heat, I think it gives them a little more pep in their step," head coach Gene Chizik said. "I think you can kind of tell when the weather cools off, they're bouncing around a little more out there."
  • Some good stuff tonight about RB Mike Dyer, which I plan to put into a story for Friday. Here's the crux of what running backs coach Curtis Luper had to say: the team's intent was to start him slow so he'd be in good shape to finish the season strong.
  • Luper said Dyer can get 25-30 carries a game and still be going strong. "He can finish games," Luper said. "He needs carries. He can handle 30, probably. He’s strong. He likes to get in that rhythm. LSU is felt it. I could sense he felt it. He was getting in a rhythm against LSU, and I wanted to get him the ball more in that game."
  • Is Dyer what Luper expected? "Oh, yes. And more. He’s very conscientious. He wants to do well. He wants to win. He studies extra. He’s what we thought he was, and more. There’s always that unknown, until you actually get them here, until they get hit in the mouth. But you love it when they’re better than you thought they were."
  • Luper likes the different threats Auburn has going right now. He named three specifically? Cam Newton, Onterio McCalebb and Dyer. "The three of them really pose problems for the opposing defenses," he said. "Mike is an inside runner, and he can get to the perimeter, too, as you saw last Saturday. Onterio and Cam have the read-option game going, so it’s pretty tough. You can sit in the box and try to stop Cam, and Onterio can take it 70 yards in a heartbeat."
  • Grime appreciates all the kind words that everyone seems to be heaping on the offensive line. It doesn't happen often. "It is, in a lot of ways, a thankless position," Grimes said. "But I always try to get them to the point where they buy in to the philosophy that it doesn't matter who gets the credit. What matters is that you can sleep at night and look your partners in the eye after a job well done and feel like you gave it your all and really accomplished something. And I think to some extent they get to the point where it doesn't really matter that much, but it's nice when you get it."
  • Auburn's cornerback situation sounded a lot more dire than it let on heading into the LSU game. T'Sharvan Bell was a no-go because of a hamstring injury suffered the previous week. And cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley said the team didn't know whether or not a hand injury would keep Neiko Thorpe out until right up until gametime. That would have left Auburn with Demond Washington and Chris Davis and ... well, no one else who was healthy. The Ryan White redshirting thing makes more sense now.
  • Lolley said there was some discussion about whether or not to burn the redshirt on White. "I talked to him. I talked to his dad," he said. "And the season that we’re having and the problems we’ve had with injuries – losing two or three guys for certain games – we had to have somebody athletic enough to help play the guys in this league. And he’s the guy."
  • White had been a scout team player for most of the season, mimicking other teams' options quarterbacks when necessary, but Lolley said White has been at cornerback for two or three weeks now. He got about 10 snaps against Ole Miss. "I feel very confident in him," Lolley said.
  • Chris Davis, meanwhile, has moved up the cornerback rungs. He's worked as the nickelback and some on the regular defense. “He can play two positions pretty solid right now mentally,” Lolley said.
  • Lolley has an ace in the hole with senior safety Zac Etheridge, who has worked some at nickelback this week.
  • Chizik chimed in on today's SEC teleconference about assistants getting looks at head coaching jobs in the future. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's name has already been bandied about for the not-yet-vacant Colorado job. "When you hire great assistants, they're going to be talked about,'' Chizik said. "They'll be some deliberations on these guys for this job or that job. I want the best for our guys. I have a great staff. Whoever's name comes up, and whoever is being sought after, we're going to do everything to help them, providing it's the right situation. We're looking out for the best difference for all our guys."
  • One quick recruiting note: Safety Izauea Lanier is no longer an Auburn commitment for 2011, according to AuburnUndercover.com. Lanier, from Gordo, Ala., signed with the Tigers first in 2009 but did not qualify. He has been at East Mississippi Community College the last two years, redshirting this season. He committed to Auburn again in February but re-opened his recruitment recently. Lanier is the Tigers’ second decommit in the last month, joining Fort Lauderdale, Fla., cornerback Devin Gaulden. Auburn currently has 13 commitments for 2011.


Frank said...

Andy, two defensive backfield decommits in the last month. Just a coincidence or is there a story here?

AUBigCat said...

Word on Lanier is that he has some grade issues. It sounds like Gauldin and Auburn had a mutual split. I think the story is that there are higher rated players on the board that have AU at the top of their list of schools. We obviously need immediate help in the secondary next year so it could work out well.

Andy Bitter said...

I'd say it's just coincidence.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I think our stock is rising so I wouldn't read a lot into the decommits, it's probably kids who are worried about some higher ranked kid coming in and usurping their playing time right away.