“There are actually seven things,” Grimes said of his rating system. “Is he big enough? Is he strong enough? Is he quick enough? Does he have balance? Does he have a football IQ? And, does he have character and toughness? Those seven things right there are the things you look for.”
Last season when it became apparent that Auburn redshirt sophomore Greg Robinson was going to be a high draft pick by the NFL and was heading for his last season on the Plains, the search began for his replacement.
Not expecting to have a need at tackle until Robinson shot up the charts for NFL scouts from across the league, Grimes said it put Auburn behind the eight ball until a door opened in the Midwest and walking through it was one of the most physically impressive prospects in the country, five-star recruit Braden Smith.
“His dad and sister came to Auburn for a game and really liked Auburn,” Grimes said. “As a result they talked about it with Braden. I think he liked our style of play. He liked the way we ran the football. That was really important to him. Braden is a really serious kid and he was serious about looking at us because of our style of football.”
Although Auburn was late in the recruiting mix, on signing day he announced that he was going to attend Auburn. “I can’t believe we got him," Grime said. "That guy can play.”
One of the top offensive line prospects in the country, Smith was always known as one of the strongest players because of his ability in the weight room. It has been the other parts of his game that have been just as impressive to Grimes and the Auburn staff since he arrived on campus in June.
“A good player doesn’t have to have all seven, but he’s got to have character and toughness,” Grimes said of his wish list for linemen. “This kid is tough and he’s got great character. The one I don’t know yet is the one I alluded to earlier, that’s football IQ. I know the other ones he has.
"He’s big, strong, quick, got balance, and he’s got character and toughness. He’s got six right now that I know about, and I’m starting to feel like he’s got the seventh. When you’ve got seven I can coach those types of guys.”
Smith definitely looks like an SEC offensive lineman.
At 6-6 and nearly 300 pounds, Smith has the look of a player who uses brute force to get the job done, and while he can do just that, Grimes said there is more to his big freshman that meets the eye.
He’s in the 99 percentile when it comes to the physical ability and the ability to bend,” Grimes said. “That strength and size for a freshman? Ninety-nine percentile in the country.”
The ability to bend is one of the keys to Smith’s ability and why Grimes is high on him as a player. It’s the natural movement to any athletic ability and something the coach said is a key staple to playing on the offensive line.
“You can’t do anything with straight legs when it comes to athletics,” Grimes said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s basketball or hockey, lacrosse, football, baseball--you’ve got to be able to bend.
"When I talk about bending, bending at the waist is one thing, but being able to bend and keep your heels in the ground, that is the type of bending that the average fan doesn’t know about. He’s got all that. He can bend down and put his rear end on the ground and his heels never come off the ground. That’s unbelievable.”
Shon Coleman and Smith pose during the summer
Currently working as the second left tackle behind projected starter Shon Coleman, Smith is in the mix for playing time in the season opener against Arkansas in what Grimes called a “huge, huge football game.” While he’s not ready to give a definite yes to the question of whether or not Smith will play, Grimes did add that the freshman is in the hunt and that’s saying something in itself.
“I think he’s probably a lot closer than most freshmen,” Grimes said. “He’s pretty good. Watching him he’s done some things that normal folks don’t do. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”