Offensive Line Trying To Grow During Easy Wins

Auburn's offensive line has grown the last two weeks with several young reserves having a chance to play extensive minutes for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.-–When Tristan Davis scored from 52 yards out with two minutes and 19 seconds remaining in Saturday's 63-3 win over Ball State, few people were as happy as Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall.

With reserves King Dunlap, Tyrone Greene and others leading the way, Davis' run capped off a 390-yard rushing day for the Tigers and left Nall looking for more out of the backups as the season progresses.

"I was excited about last week and the way the guys played that stepped in," Nall says. "That playing experience helped. It also helped me to see the way they performed. Even though that was not a SEC school, they still went to the right places and did the right things and did it with a gusto that you hope everybody is going to keep having. It makes you feel better about putting them in a game. It has created a depth situation that gives me more confidence in the depth that I've got."

Jonathan Palmer pulls to lead a running play in Saturday's game.

In addition Nall also got reserves such as Leon Hart and Jonathan Palmer in the contest for meaningful playing time. Both have shown the ability to get the job done against even the toughest of competition, something that Dunlap has shown as well. Nall says all three have shown him they're ready to go if needed this season and he wouldn't hesitate to start them if they prove they're playing the best at the moment.

"It's all about performance," Nall says. "That's the bottom line. We have turned some guys free at times at some positions up there. That's got to stop. If it doesn't, whether it's right guard or left guard or left tackle, there will be some changes made. We're not going to turn people free. I'm tired of seeing that. We're good enough and smart enough where we ought to have a hat on a hat and block them."

A player who Nall and fellow offensive lineman Marcus McNeill say is the most talented of the offensive linemen, Palmer started for the first time in his career against Ball State with starter Timmy Duckworth out with an ankle injury. Showing the ability to move and get some push at the line of scrimmage, Palmer graded out well and Nall says there are no reasons why he shouldn't continue playing for the Tigers.

"I thought he played well," Nall says of Palmer. "He did some really good things. He is a talented young man. I'm hoping that from what I saw Saturday he will continue to improve. As long as he continues to improve his playing time will continue."

With this Saturday's homecoming game against Western Kentucky expected to be another chance for Nall to play some reserves on the offensive line, the veteran coach says that there's a good chance this won't be the last time that happens. Losing just two starters off the offensive front after this season, that could mean the Tigers will have some experienced players up front in the coming seasons.

"All of them are very talented young men," Nall says. "They just need to get more and more playing time. That certainly gave me a chance to get them some snaps. Some of them need to get more than they did, but that experience of being in a game is what it's all about. You can practice all you want to, but you stand out there on the field and there's people up there in the stands watching you. It's not just Coach Nall or Coach (Al) Borges, it's everybody. It's amazing what a difference that makes. Just getting that real game experience is a big deal."

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