Nall Plans to Play More Offensive Linemen

Auburn's offensive line coach comments on his group's performance and potential.

Auburn, Ala.--Hugh Nall made just one substitution in Auburn's opening game vs. Georgia Tech. When the Tigers play Mississippi State on Saturday, the Auburn offensive line coach says he will play at least four substitutes vs. the Bulldogs.

Nall says to expect redshirt sophomore King Dunlap to receive playing time at left tackle and to look for true sophomore Leon Hart to see action at left guard and possibly one of the other line positions. Hart also plays tackle and has seen some limited work at center.

In addition, Nall says to look for junior Jonathan Palmer at right guard and possibly another position. Palmer can play both guard spots and has seen significant practice time at center where senior Steven Ross saw action in game one as a backup to junior Joe Cope, who made his first college start vs. Georgia Tech.

"You will see some other guys in there--I promise," says Nall, who mentioned in preseason he was hoping to give his reserves more game action than he did last year.

Hart, Dunlap and Palmer all won praise from Nall during preseason, but didn't get into the action during Auburn's 23-14 loss to the Yellow Jackets.

"Those guys have shown me they are game ready with their performance in practice and the way they have competed in practice," Nall says. "I plan on getting those three guys in the game and getting them in there in the first quarter."

Leon Hart (72) and King Dunlap (77) are shown in an August practice.

Commenting on the line's play vs. Georgia Tech, Nall gave the group mixed reviews. "I thought we played with a lot of intensity," he says. "It was just what you always worry about with an offensive line that has a couple of new guys in it and hasn't played together and they are playing against an experienced defensive front that played hard and came in here to win the game, not that we didn't.

"I thought the offensive line played hard," Nall adds. "We made a mistake here, a mistake there and you can't do that against good people. I was certainly concerned about that coming in. If protection is perfect except for one guy, or run blocking is perfect except for one guy, that's all it takes."

Nall says the Tigers need to communicate better on the offensive front and that is part of the theme in practice this week. "That is going to happen until that group has been through enough wars to become a good offensive line, and we are not a good offensive line right now," he says.

The coach adds that he believes the group will improve throughout the season and help the offense become more consistent. "We all left that field knowing that we could have done more to win the game up front," he says. "It was nothing that couldn't have been fixed or nothing that was totally foreign to them. Everything that we made mistakes on was stuff we had worked on. Doing it out here at practice, and doing it against the scout team, it ain't the same.

"I have tried to tell people all year, and all of the experts have been telling me how good the offensive line is going to be and I think this offensive line has got a chance to be good, but it is not a good offensive line yet and we proved that the other night."

Nall says that the visiting Yellow Jackets had a lot to do with his group's inconsistency. "Give a lot of credit to Georgia Tech.," he says. "They had a good game plan. It was a simple game plan, really. They got after us. They whipped us a lot of times and we didn't execute like we should have."

Jonathan Palmer (79) looks for someone to block in practice.

Nall says he believes his Tigers got better in the second half and played better in the final 30 plays of the contest than in the first 37.

"I thought our kids got stronger as the game went on and that is what I want the offensive line to do. We still had some individual mistakes. Brandon (Cox) got hit a couple times when he was throwing the ball. One of them in particular was when a guy rolled off Joe Cope.

"I thought our running game got on a roll there for a while and we started coming off the ball and started looking like you want an offensive line to look like. That was one part I was proud of and I saw improvement as the game went on. Once again, I am not happy where we are, but these guys didn't quit and were certainly hurting after the game."

The Tigers will be back on the practice field on Tuesday preparing for Saturday's 11:30 a.m. SEC opener vs. Mississippi State.

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