The Engine That Pushes The Cam

Auburn guards Mike Berry and Byron Isom talk about the play of the offensive line since being challenged to become more physical.

Auburn, Ala.--There is no question that Auburn junior quarterback Cameron Newton is at the center of the college football world this week as the BCS No. 1 rated Auburn Tigers prepare to face Ole Miss on the road Saturday evenig in Oxford.

Averaging 134.6 rushing yards per game with a combined 27 rushing and passing touchdowns this season, Newton deserves all the attention he's been getting, but he's also quick to point out the reasons for his success.

Mainly five of them to be exact. Ryan Pugh, Byron Isom, Mike Berry, Lee Ziemba and Brandon Mosley, Auburn's offensive line. Two consecutive weeks Newton has named all five in his postgame interview and following the LSU game, when called upon to sing the fight song in the locker room, asked for his offensive line to join him. The mutual respect shown between Newton and the line hasn't just been following the game as everyone observed last week.

On a running play to Michael Dyer that looked to be stopped with only a one or two yard gain, the pile continued to move forward much to the delight of the crowd. One of the guys helping to push the pile was Newton, not an ordinary move for a quarterback. Berry said for him though seeing Newton help out wasn't strange at all.

"It's one of those things we've built up that everybody is going to be physical," Berry said. "That's down to the quarterback. Normally they're not (physical) but Cam is a pretty physical guy. He's going to lower his shoulder on whoever comes around. It's one of those things that has just been instilled in us."

Cam Newton joins in to help push Michael Dyer for extra yardage.

That physical nature up front and throughout the whole team is something that has become a staple for the Tigers in the last month but it wasn't as apparent early. After rushing for 367 yards in the opener against Arkansas State, Auburn only ran for 190 and 221 respectively against Mississippi State and Clemson, drawing the ire of head coach Gene Chizik.

"It's one of those things where we were always a physical offensive line but he said he just wasn't seeing enough of it," Berry said. "He knew we had one of the best offensive lines out there and he just called us out. He knew we had the potential to be even greater. We couldn't do anything but respect that. We stepped up to the challenge and put it on our backs.

"Our offensive line coach (Jeff Grimes) sat us down and said take it for what it is," Berry added. "He said we needed to go out and prove to everybody that we're physical and one of the toughest offensive lines out there. Our offensive line coach is big on being tough and physical. He knew we could do it and that's what we've been proving to him."

Proving is exactly what Auburn's offensive line and offense as a whole has done since being challenged to be more physical. Since the Clemson game the Tigers are averaging 353.75 yards per game in four conference games with an average per carry of almost seven yards as a team. Isom said it's all about confidence and execution at the moment for an offense that is striving to reach bigger and better numbers each week.

"We're definitely confident as an offense and as an o-line," Isom said. "We definitely feel like we're able to put up those types of numbers against anybody.

"It is becoming very contagious," he added. "That's what we're striving for. You set landmarks and once you reach one you don't ever want to fall back to the last one. We've reached that goal now we just want to get better and better every week."

With not only the leading Heisman Trophy candidate on Auburn's team at the moment making for a big target, the Tigers also have to deal with the pressure of being the number one team in the BCS standings this week. While it could be overwhelming to deal with it all, Isom said it's just another challenge for a veteran team looking to make even more history in 2010.

"It all comes back to focus and preparation each week," Isom said. "We're just approaching it as we do every week when it comes to practice and film study. I really don't think we see it as a target on our back. We see it as an opportunity to win games."

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