Things got even more troubling for the line in last week's win over Tulane when replacement center Jason Bosley also injured a knee in the fourth quarter. That prompted right tackle Jonathan Palmer to move inside and moved Ben Grubbs up to second in the rotation at center. Grubbs says that all of the shuffling the line had to do in two-a-days has paid off for this team during the year.
"It allowed us to try people in different spots," Grubbs says. "It's unfortunate that they got hurt, but we were able to move people in there and not really lose a bit. That's the good thing about it, having J.P. experienced at both center and tackle. If need be maybe I can play a little bit of center or tackle. I think it will all work out."
Grubbs is having an All-SEC type of season and could be playing on Sundays next season.
The good news for Grubbs and the line is that Bosley is back practicing with the offense. Doing work against the scout team to get ready for the Ole Miss Rebels, Bosley is still limping because of a bruised knee, but Grubbs says the sophomore looks like he'll be ready this weekend against the Rebels.
"He did more than I guess we were expecting him to do," Grubbs says. "He's still kind of favoring that knee, but he did pretty good. I'm not sure what his circumstances are, but knowing Bos he will (play). If he keeps practicing he'll probably play."
Bosley wasn't the only center on the practice field as Cope also returned in a limited role as he got some snaps in while also continuing his rehab work. Shooting for a return for next week's game against Arkansas State, Grubbs says that Cope will give it his all to get back on the field as soon as possible.
"I saw Joe out there running around and it just put a smile on my face," Grubbs says. "I know how much he wants it and how much he wants to be back with us. Hopefully, he can."
With Bosley likely the starter this week with Palmer at number two and Cope in an emergency role only, it appears that Grubbs will be spared having to play center for the Tigers. That's good news for the senior because he says playing in the middle is definitely harder than anything he's done on the football field.
"I know my name would be called soon so I start getting my mind ready, but I hope not," Grubbs says. "I thought it would easier than what it was, but there's a lot to go with center. First you've got to get the ball to the quarterback and then you have to make your checks and reads all at the same time while making the correct steps. It's hard and tough. I still don't have it."
One thing Grubbs and the offensive line does have is a strong work ethic. That has been instilled in them by position coach Hugh Nall throughout their careers. Grubbs says that has made a difference this season because through hard work the line has gotten better each week and is now playing its best football of the season.
"I think that everybody is playing more consistently," the senior says. "Me and Bos and our tackles like King, he had a great game. J.P. had a great game. It's getting towards the end of the season so I guess they're expecting you to gradually get better each game. I think we're doing a pretty good job of continuing to gel and hopefully these next few weeks we can be hitting on all cylinders."