Offensive Line Improves After Tough Test

Coach Hugh Nall talks about the performance of Auburn's offensive line against LSU Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

Auburn, Ala.-–Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall knows of what he speaks when talking about great runs. After all, he played center for Georgia and blocked for SEC great Herschel Walker. So when he says that Kenny Irons' 74-yard touchdown run against LSU was something special then you can do nothing but believe him.

A fiery coach that loves competition, Nall says that watching Irons run during the last two games has given him the itch to get back on the field if he could because his style and purpose when running the ball makes it fun to be an offensive lineman.

"It means everything," Nall says. "Heck it makes me want to get back out there and play. To see somebody running that hard and putting that much into it, you know even if you do a mediocre job there's going to be something. In fact his long run last night was just unbelievable. We had the backside walled off good.

"The play is designed to stretch the playside defensive end. He didn't stretch and Troy (Troy Reddick) got into a battle and locked up. It created a chance for the safety to compress on it. Joe (Joe Cope) and Marcus (Marcus McNeill) and Ben (Ben Grubbs) did a nice job of walling off the backside. He did a nice job of pressing the block of Troy and then spun out of it. It's one of the finest runs I've ever seen."

Joe Cope prepares to snap the ball against LSU.

Facing a defense that was allowing just 68 yards per game on the ground, Auburn did what nobody thought they could do and controlled the ball through the running of Irons. For the game the Tigers pounded LSU's defense for 230 yards on 38 carries. Nall says that overall the group played well with junior Timmy Duckworth the leader of the pack.

"I think overall Duckworth graded out the best because he had several pancakes again, I can't remember how many," Nall says. "Ben Grubbs graded pretty good. Marcus and Troy weren't quite as high as I wanted them to be, but they played okay."

A first-year starter on the offensive line, Duckworth was recruited for the Tigers as a defensive lineman out of Taylorsville, Miss. Very physical and aggressive from his guard position, Duckworth is a player that Nall says keeps improving weekly because it's a constant learning curve for him being on the field.

"He hasn't been over there very long, that's what people forget," Nall says. "He's only been there for a year and a half really. Every week, I don't know what it is, they throw different things at us from the things you've worked on. You expect that to a point, but that's just showing him how difficult defenses are now. Not just their personnel, but scheme-wise what they do. For the most part they ran the same old stuff, but they threw some different things at us and you have to be ready for everything.

"The more things he sees like that the better he'll keep getting. He gave up one sack last night. He thought it was a twist situation and it wasn't. What he saw, it could have been a twist situation. Hopefully he won't make that mistake again after never really seeing that situation. He's never really been in that scenario he was in Saturday night. He's getting better."

Also getting better each week is center Joe Cope. Thought to be the weak spot for the Auburn line facing LSU's vaunted tackle tandem of Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten, the walk-on played very well and Nall says that helps the offensive line as a whole as they prepare for the finish of the 2005 season.

"I think not just tonight, but I think it helps us down the road," Nall says. "He's gotten better each week. I thought he did a good job last night and I think he'll keep getting better. He had a real good game and played hard. He gave up a sack to him (Williams), but for the most part he handled himself really well. He did a good job."

Auburn now prepares to face another top defense this weekend when they take on the Ole Miss Rebels. Led by a very quick front four that is tough against the run, Ole Miss will be yet another tough task for the Tigers, but Nall says that after LSU they should be ready.

"It's the best we've faced so far," Nall says of LSU's defensive line. "We've got some more good ones coming starting this week. They're quick and will get after you and play hard. We'll get their best shot. You know that. The best front seven we'll see is the next one we're going to play. Up to this point they (LSU) were by far the best we've seen in a long time."

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