Auburn, Ala.--Following a less than impressive showing in the season opener to Clemson, the Auburn Tigers offensive line was challenged to be more physical in game two against Arkansas State and Coach Herb Hand’s group responded. Rushing for 462 yards with Kamryn Pettway (152) and Kerryon Johnson (124) both topping the century mark, Auburn OC Rhett Lashlee said it was a big step in the right direction for the offensive line and running game in particular.
““They improved,” Lashlee said. “They played much better. We were more physical and had more knock-downs. We had more of what Coach Hand called intimidation blocks. We drove some guys and we were able to kind of balance out the downhill and perimeter yards in the run game enough to help our guys out. But, we did some good things.
“There are still plays like the fourth and one that just kind of stick out in your head. We’ve got to be able to get half a yard. There were a couple of plays early on, and credit to Arkansas State now. They were playing downhill and they were making it difficult, but we played better in pass protection. We gave up the one sack that for the amount of times we threw the ball that’s about average.
“We did fine there, but we still can be better and against the opponents we’re about to face, no disrespect to who we just played because I think that’s probably about as good a D-Line as you’re going to see in the Sun Belt, we’re going to have to be better especially in pass-pro. We just have to continue to improve.”
One of Auburn’s best offensive linemen, junior guard Braden Smith agrees with Lashlee on his assertion that the group played better at the point of attack.
“I think we're taking steps,” Smith said. “I think the overall goal for the offensive line this week was just to play more physical. I think we accomplished that goal. Just taking baby steps, progressing through each week.”
Progress is the key word this week as the challenge ramps up in a big way with Texas A&M coming to town. Boasting perhaps the best duo of defensive ends in the entire country in Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall as well as powerful interior player Daylon Mack, the Aggies will be a stern test said Smith.
“It’s definitely a great challenge,” Smith said. “Opening up SEC play, every week is going to be a challenge. Definitely a well coached defensive line and they've got a lot of talent.”