Offensive Line Coming Together In Spring

Auburn's offensive line group is getting valuable work this spring as the Tigers look to field yet another solid group for Coach J.B. Grimes.

Auburn, Ala.--This spring has been an important one for Coach J.B. Grimes and the Auburn offensive line after losing the lynchpin to his group in center Reese Dismukes along with guard Chad Slade and tackle Patrick Miller off last year’s team. While there is experience at offensive tackle with starters Shon Coleman and Avery Young back, there are different faces in the middle as the Tigers get ready to hit the field Saturday for the A-Day game at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Two of those players are battling to replace Dismukes in the middle with Austin Golson and Xavier Dampeer both having solid springs at center. With Braden Smith entrenched at right guard with Alex Kozan back at left guard and sharing time with Devonte Danzey while Kozan continues to make progress recovering from his back injury that cost him the entire 2014 season, Grimes has a solid first group to work with this year.

Trying to build his depth this spring Grimes has turned to true freshman Bailey Sharp and Tyler Carr for quality while guys like Robert Leff, Will Adams, and Jordan Diamond continue to improve their play with more work although Diamond is not expected to be full speed until the fall. Looking for consistency across the front as the Tigers close out spring, Grimes said right now things are still a work in progress.

“I think we've got a chance,” Grimes said. “We need to get Kozan back all the time. We need to get Jordan Diamond back all the time. Right now, continuity in our second unit, our blue unit, we've got two young guys there that have been thrown in. They're getting unbelievably good reps, getting great early reps out of those guys. But we're battling, we're battling there. Experience is such an important thing and there's only one way to get it and that's to go out there and get it and that's what those guys are getting right now.”

Jordan Diamond (left) and Tyler Carr (right) work on fundamentals during spring practice

The experience for the offensive line isn’t just limited to reps for the young guys, but also comes from facing a new-look defense on the other side with Will Muschamp coming in to be the coordinator for the Tigers. Installing a scheme that will employ both a four-man front and a three-man front at different times, Auburn’s defense will be much more multiple in 2015.

That not only makes them a tougher matchup for opposing offenses, but also their own offense as well. Having to see their own defense every day in practice, Coach Gus Malzahn said he thinks that should have a big impact on how well Grimes’ group plays next season because they’ll be more prepared to face life in the SEC.

“It’s very important because in our league, this day and time, you’re going to see half the teams play odd, half the teams play even and now it’s getting to a point where a lot of teams do both,” Malzahn said. “You’ve got different rules up front, your backs paths (blocking) are a little bit different. The fact that we’re seeing both of the about equal time I think has been very good for both sides.”

Kozan agrees. Back on the field after missing the entire last season because of a back injury that required surgery, the redshirt junior is excited about what he he has seen so far from Auburn’s front five. With experience, talent and depth to work with throughout the spring, he said the future is bright for the Tigers up front based on what he’s seen.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” Kozan said. “We’re certainly ahead of where we were in spring of 2013 so we’ve got a lot of guys that understand their jobs, and as a group we really have some talented guys.

"Shon Coleman, he’s had a full season to get under his belt and I think you’re going to see some special things from him this fall. Devonte (Danzey) has gotten a lot better--he’s really worked hard.

“Golson has kind of come in and helped secure that center job, along with Xavier," Kozan pointed out. "They’re both competing and they’ve both stepped up their games. Braden is a freak athlete so we got to get him where he’s playing at full speed and getting everything down, but he makes some wild plays.

"Avery’s proven himself--he’s played here for four years now. I think as a group we have a lot of experience, a lot of guys that know what it takes to get it done. I’m excited about it.”

The Tigers will play their annual A-Day Game on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CDT.

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