Benjamin Wolk/SEC Country
Auburn's J.B. Grimes was honest with his players shortly after arriving back on campus.

Auburn’s offensive line is getting schooled, and that’s a positive

 

What are we going to do with our offensive line?

AUBURN, Ala. — When offensive line coach J.B. Grimes arrived back on the Auburn University campus, he didn’t waste much time being tactful.

After the start the Tigers’ offensive line had in 2017 (you know, the one where they allowed 11 sacks to Clemson in Week 2), the returning position coach had a lot of things to say to the faces in his meeting room.

If there was a bright side to the poor start under Herb Hand last season, it’s that there’s a sense of urgency driving this year’s players and coaches. Everyone is determined to start strong instead of stumbling. In order to fix those issues, Grimes, according to players, has been real.

“He went through and like watched all our film,” offensive guard Mike Horton said. “And was like, ‘Ok, this is what we we’re terrible at and this is what we need to get better at.'”

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Auburn won’t have the senior leadership and experience it had in guard Braden Smith and play-everywhere-on-the-line Austin Golson, but there’s a good chance the Tigers open their season in September playing more cleanly than they did last year.

From what players have said, the main difference between Hand and Grimes is that Grimes is all about the little things. His approach is different, and that’s probably not a bad thing. It means working on one thing.

“Just details,” Horton said. “Coach Grimes really loves details. He focuses on that and he felt like we weren’t really detail-oriented last year.”

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For those who want to know exactly what Auburn is doing to ensure that Jarrett Stidham is protected this fall, starting against Washington in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in September, the answer is simple: working.

Losing the seniors it did won’t make things easier for Auburn. The good news is all those plays where fans complained about Prince Tega Wanogho and others should help as he likely adjusts to his role as a full-time starter.

There’s also a center competition this spring and summer. Kaleb Kim, Nick Brahms and Tucker Brown are in contention for the job, which seems wide open. For the most part, players are also focusing on playing one position — that’s a Grimes thing, too. There shouldn’t be nearly as much mixing and matching in the coming season, which should be beneficial.

Grimes is, according to players, exactly what he was advertised to be. Those who knew him and were recruited by him, like Horton, are glad to have him back. The newcomers who didn’t know him should be thrilled he’s returned.

“I feel real good about … I have said this before. J.B. is one of the better teachers, just true teachers, that I have had in 28 or 29 years of coaching,” Gus Malzahn said. “He is a true teacher.”

Therefore, Auburn’s offensive line is getting schooled right now. Grimes is figuring out where to place people and teaching them accordingly. He’s developing the guys in his meeting room, which is exactly what people like Calvin Ashley need.

Auburn’s offensive line is taking the necessary steps to walk straight into 2018 ready to protect and be successful.