Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn offensive line didn’t get off to the strongest start this season, only churning out 87 rushing yards and allowing the Tigers’ three quarterbacks to be under duress throughout the season opener vs. Clemson.
However, the group has banded together and shown improvement from week to week, helped by sticking with an offensive plan and Sean White at quarterback. This change was on full display against Mississippi State as the Tigers ran for 228 yards and three touchdowns on the road in Starkville, much of that coming in the first half when they built a 35-0 lead at intermission.
For offensive guard Alex Kozan, the growth of the offensive line comes from a greater amount of reps and snaps together.
“I think every offensive line in the country is better towards the end of the season than they are in the beginning of the season,” the senior pointed out. “You have more cohesion, more communication, and you can really work with the guys next to you better with the more snaps you play together.”
With the emergence of Darius James at left tackle as a sixth viable option on the line Kozan said he believes that having an extra player to fill in on the line allows for more flexibility within the positions and means that there is another player teammates can count on.
“I think we’ve got six really good players (on the line),” Kozan said. “Darius has really stepped up when he’s gotten his opportunity the past couple of weeks."
Kozan added, "Coach (Gus) Malzahn, Coach (Herb) Hand and Coach (Rhett) Lashlee will all make the best decision for the team. I think we’ll be ready to roll with whoever is in there.”
James, a redshirt junior, is a transfer from Texas who sat out in 2015 waiting to impress, and the Killeen, Tex., native has made progress. “As a run blocker he’s done better than I expected,” Kozan admitted. “As a pass blocker he’s been solid. I don’t think he’s given up any sacks.”
One mark on James coming out of Harker Heights High was that he sometimes slacked in practice before turning it on during the games. Kozan says that this rumored side of James is something he hasn’t seen of the tackle's time on the Plains.
“Darius has really been focusing on improving during practice,” said Kozan. “That has allowed him to play better in the games. Here (at Auburn) he is a practice player. He has improved since the spring and he’s focusing on becoming a better player.”
Auburn’s offensive line will be counted on to produce again this weekend when the Tigers take on Arkansas at 5 p.m. CDT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPN.