Offensive Line Looking For Game Two Improvement

Coach Hugh Nall discusses the play of his offensive line in the opener and what they're doing to improve this week.

Auburn, Ala.–-There is little doubt that Auburn's current offensive line is the deepest and most talented in recent in recent seasons.

However, that didn't translate into a dominant performance in Saturday's win over Louisiana-Monroe though as the Tigers struggled to run the ball at times against a smaller Indian defensive front. Overall, his group had what Coach Hugh Nall said was a decent day, but not what he wanted to see.

"We've got a lot of things to work on," Nall said. "There were a lot of communication problems at times. We missed the identification of the defense a few times. It's a good thing it was Louisiana-Monroe. If it was somebody different it would have been a tough day."

Hugh Nall is lecturing the offensive line during Monday's practice.

One concern that Nall and the rest of the Auburn coaches had following Saturday's win was the lack of physical play by the Tigers. With the exception of a few big hits on defense, for the most part Auburn didn't control the line of scrimmage like the coaches hoped they would. Nall said that was something he was ready to correct soon after the game was finished and he got a start to that on Monday with a very physical practice for both the offensive and defensive lines.

"I thought we came out and really got after it," Nall said. "That was one thing I talked to them about after the game. I told them on the sidelines that we were not as brisk as I want to see it. Our pad level wasn't good. We were a little bit lackadaisical and that can't happen."

Some of the problems on offense can be traced directly to the substitution patterns by the coaches. With the Tigers playing second stringers and third stringers up front, Nall said he got a good look at some of his younger players and several caught his eye after playing well.

"Jonathan Palmer is a kid that I thought played really good this week," Nall said. "I imagine he'll see some playing time this week. Leon Hart played really well. Steven Ross played really well. You could see them in there. I'm still not giving up on the idea of substituting and possibly some mass substitutions depending on what the situation is and what the game calls for."

Last Saturday, Auburn faced some of the problems that bothered the offensive line last season. Taking chances, the Indian defense slanted and blitzed a great deal in hopes of confusing the line and making big plays. Nall said that while those things worked at times, when the Tigers open up the passing game more then teams will have to respect that portion of the game down the road.

"They better be alert to make sure they get all the zones covered and not zone blitz too much and void a zone here or there," Nall said. "If you've got a passing game that can take advantage of that, especially short zones, then that will help up front. They won't send as many people."

Leon Hart (72) and Jonathan Palmer (79) block during a drill on Monday.

Saturday was also the first start for senior Jeremy Ingle at center as well as the first college offensive line action for guys like Tim Duckworth and King Dunlap up front. Nall said the experience was good for them to get true game experience on the offensive line.

"All that practice stuff doesn't mean a thing until the actual game situation," Nall said. "That's what makes them game-ready. Practice can't make them game-ready. They get nervous and there's so many things to think about. Give them credit, I thought Louisiana-Monroe was better and they did some strange things. They did two or three things I've never seen before. It definitely confused our kids because I had not shown it to them. Heck, I had never seen it. I don't know whether it was sound or not, but it was different."

Much like last Saturday's contest when Auburn was facing a better opponent than the year before, this weekend's opponent will be a much different one than last season when Carnell Williams and the Tigers ran roughshod over the Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Nall said that watching Mississippi State on video has him really anxious to see how his guys match up on Saturday.

"I don't know if I've seen a front seven that big in a while that can run," Nall said. "Their two inside guys are 300 plus and can fly. The defensive ends are impressive with their quickness and they flip them back and forth so you can never focus on one guy. It's going to be a challenge."

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