Auburn's OL Coach Likes What He Is Seeing

Jeff Grimes talks about the improved play of Auburn's offensive line in an Auburn football practice report that features comments from coaches and players plus news and notes.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said after Wednesday night's football practice that he is pleased with the progress of his group that played even better than he thought on Saturday night during his team's 35-27 victory over South Carolina.

Grimes, in his second year in charge of the Auburn offensive line, noted that he was disappointed after the Clemson game at how his group struggled. After watching video of Auburn's 27-24 overtime win over Clemson he was even more concerned than he expected to be.

That led to Grimes challenging the offensive line to get more physical in last week's practice while head coach Gene Chizik did the same thing on a public stage.

"The South Carolina game I knew we did a good job or we wouldn't have been able to do some of the things we did, but when I went back and looked at it in detail and saw how hard the guys actually played and how physical they were, I was even more impressed," Grimes said.

"I was really, really pleased with their effort," the coach added. "The challenge to them now is can we go out and build on that and do it again rather than being momentarily."

The South Carolina game was the first Auburn start for juco transfer Brandon Mosley. Grimes said that when Mosley didn't win a starting job in preseason he went to work on improving as an offensive tackle without the pressure of trying to win the job and that has resulted in a better player for Grimes to work with as Mosley fills in for injured junior A.J. Greene, who is lost for the season with an ankle injury.

"He was hungry and he wasn't just going to sit back there and take it (not being a starter)," Grimes said. "He focused on getting better every day and what he has done the last few weeks prepared him for this opportunity. It wasn't just that he did a great job last week in practice."

Sophomore John Sullen continues to work at tackle to try to win the spot that Mosley is holding. "He had a little tweak on one of his legs last week that kept him out of a little bit of practice, but he is fine and is playing both sides a little bit right now," Grimes said.

Grimes, who won praise from South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier for the way his offensive lineman played last Saturday night, joked that he needs to send a check to Spurrier for the public endorsement.

The Tigers practiced in helmets and shorts on a cool, autumn evening working out for right at two hours. "Last night and tonight I thought was a really a very focused practice," Chizik said. "We understand all of the little things we have got to get better at for us to continue to improve. I thought so far this week we have done that."

Chizik said that freshman Trovon Reed's status is unchanged. The wide receiver, who was a standout in preseason, is still recovering from a kneecap injury.

Reed, who has only played two snaps this season, both as a wildcat quarterback, is eligible to apply for a medical hardship redshirt. Asked about that, Chizik said, "I don't want to go there. We will play it by ear and see how it goes."

Chizik said "off the top of his head" he couldn't think of any more newcomers who could see their first action this week as the Tigers take on Louisiana-Monroe.

One of the focal points in the recruiting class was bringing in four freshmen linebackers. So far just one player from that group, Jessel Curry, has seen action this season. Curry was an early graduate from high school who went through spring training at AU.

The most likely one to join Curry is Jake Holland, who has been sharing reps as the number two middle linebacker with sophomore Harris Gaston going back to preseason.

Jawara White, a linebacker signee out of Troy, will definitely not play this year after having surgery this week to repair an unrelated problem that was discovered during a checkup to see if he had suffered a concussion. White is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for action next season.

Jawara White

The other linebacker signee, Ladarious Owens, is expected to redshirt, too, because he is adjusting to playing without his hand on the ground. In high school he played mostly in a three-point stance like a defensive end.

Fullback Ladarious Phillips, who suffered an ankle injury in the final preseason scrimmage, is a freshman who was pushing for playing time. Still not ready for action, it will be surprising if he isn't redshirted, too.

In the second half against South Carolina on Saturday night the offensive pace by the Tigers caused problems for the South Carolina defense. Senior center Ryan Pugh said the Tigers have been working to get to that point all year and can play even faster than what was on display against the Gamecocks.

"It still wasn't as good as where we want it to be," he said, a point that fellow offensive line Byron Isom made, too. "With Coach Malzahn it is never fast enough," Isom said.

Ryan Pugh

Against Clemson the previous week the Tigers struggled to increase the tempo and Pugh said the offense as a whole was inconsistent in that non-conference game after a less than impressive performance in practice."

After being challenged to play much more physically against the Gamecocks, that happened in Auburn's 35-27 victory to move to 2-0 in the SEC. "We picked it up last week in practice and it showed on Saturday," Pugh said.

The offensive lineman and his teammates will practice again on Thursday and then rest for Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

In other news and notes:

*Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said that sophomore Philip Pierre-Louis, who had ACL surgery in spring training, is not ready for game action yet. "He probably tried to come back sooner than he should have, but give the kid credit, he is tough," Taylor said. "He has got to be able to help us on special teams and he hasn't been able to do that yet."

*Another receiver coming back from a knee injury, Travante Stallworth, was initially progressing more slowly than Pierre-Louis, but is making solid progress, Taylor said. He could see action this week vs. ULM.

*Senior Mario Fannin is working at tailback and H-back this week in practice as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury. He is expected to play this week.

*Freshman receiver Antonio Goodwin, who has been limited by a wrist injury, could see action this week against Louisiana-Monroe. Goodwin has been working at receiver, on the kick coverage team and also spending time on the scout team.

*Another receiver who has been limited by a hand injury, DeAngelo Benton, is making progress, Taylor said.

*Senior Demond Washington is averaging 25.9 yards per kickoff return, which is fourth in the SEC this week. Junior receiver Quindarius Carr is seventh in the SEC in punt returns with an average of 7.4 yards per attempt.

*Clay Matvick will do the play by play for television coverage of Saturday's game. Herm Edwards will be the analyst and Elizabeth Moreau is scheduled to be the sideline reporter.

*The game will also be carried by satellite radio on XM 199 and Sirius 220.

*Auburn, Air Force and Nebraska are the only Division I?teams that feature three runners who are averaging 70 or more rushing yards per game. Cameron Newton, who leads the SEC in rushing, is averaging 121.3 yards per game. Michael Dyer is ninth in the SEC at 78 yards per contest and McCalebb is 11th in the SEC with his average of 70 yards per game.

*Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that McCalebb has played significantly better in the last two games than he did in the first two games.

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