AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee received some much-needed reassurance against Louisiana-Monroe.
The Auburn offensive line needed a slight reshuffle because of center Xavier Dampeer’s leg injury suffered against LSU. For the first time this season, the Tigers had to try a new group on the offensive line.
With Dampeer out, Lashlee moved left tackle Austin Golson to the center position he played last season. It paved the way for Darius James, who has been getting reps at left tackle, to get his first-career start at the position.
“It’s one thing to know that’s your option, but to be able to see it,” Lashlee said. “We felt like Austin would play well, but to see Darius come in and do a solid job for us, that’s only going to help us because seven games left and you’re one play away from anyone going down and you have to shuffle guys around. It was huge for Darius to get that experience.”
All in all, Lashlee said he felt like the new-look line adjusted well. The Tigers only allowed one sack — a sack-fumble in the first quarter.
But Lashlee placed the blame on Sean White’s hesitance to deliver a pass downfield, rather than an offensive line breakdown.
“I thought our offensive line protected very well. That one was not on the O-line,” Lashlee said. “They brought a Will-free safety blitz, we’re hot, quarterback’s got to get rid of the football. But really other than that I thought our guys settled down and played pretty well.”
Other members of the offensive line said they were comfortable with the different personnel up front. It’s a nice security blanket as the meat of the SEC schedule approaches.
“Just having versatility among the line in case someone goes down, you have plenty of options,” offensive lineman Braden Smith said. “You can mix and match people and no let up at all.”
Despite the changes against Louisiana-Monroe, Auburn will likely return to its original lineup against Mississippi State.
As Gus Malzahn put it, Dampeer was “on one leg,” in the second half against LSU. He was available in an emergency capacity in the Louisiana-Monroe matchup, but coaches wanted to be able to give him some rest and check out their other offensive line options.
Lashlee said he expects Dampeer to return to center Saturday, which would shift Golson back to left tackle.
“I do (think Dampeer returns this week),” Lashlee said. “It was kind of one of those he wouldn’t have been 100 percent, so we felt like we could start the game the way we practiced the whole week and see how it went from there. Fortunately we were able to keep him out and keep him rested.”