Auburn, Ala.--Although his secret leaked out last week to start three true freshman on Auburn's offensive line against New Mexico State, Coach Hugh Nall says there won't be any secrets this week after the way Ryan Pugh and Chaz Ramsey performed in their first start alongside Jason Bosley, Tyronne Green and fellow true freshman Lee Ziemba. With a trip to Florida on the schedule this week, Nall says he's sticking with his young guns at the moment.
"Yeah," Nall says. "I like what I saw. We'll go on down the road. I told them they've got to grow up each week a little bit more. Chip a little bit of yellow paint off each week and let's go."
In the past Auburn has had just a few true freshmen earn starting jobs on the offensive line with names such as Ed King, Willie Anderson and Marcus McNeill among the very chosen few. Perhaps at no time did three first-year freshmen hold down starting jobs on the line just four weeks into the season. That is the case for the Tigers this year and Nall says they actually did pretty well.
"They played pretty good, they really did," Nall says. "They played with a lot of enthusiasm. It was great to see. I was impressed with their tempo. They brought a spark back to us that we certainly needed up there. They made some mistakes and they've got to get better but I really like their attitude and tempo.
"We were feeling around the first half," he adds. "We did some things the first two drives where we weren't executing as good. I called them over and said ‘all right, you've had two drives now and you're veterans so let's go'. We've got to make something happen and they did."
With starting left tackle King Dunlap banged up (elbow) and right guard Mike Berry also bothered by a sore shoulder, Nall decided to give the two freshmen that had been practicing with the team a chance to see what they could do. For Ramsey the challenge of playing in his first college game was enough but for Pugh it was doubly tough having to move from center to left tackle. Nall says he handled things very well considering he only had a few days to get ready for the start.
"It was just this week," Nall says of when the move was made. "I had worked him over there I guess twice before that. He played that in high school so we felt like he had been over there enough, especially in a passing offense. He knew the fundamentals of the passing game. I know he's an aggressive kid in the running game so I felt pretty good that he would do a good job with that. He's got a lot to work on but he did some good things. In his downfield blocking he did some good things. I thought he's got a good future over there."
While Pugh got some props for his ability to be versatile and play anywhere up front, Ramsey is a classic guard that uses his strength and athleticism to create running lanes on the outside sweep plays. Nall says Ramsey's play typifies the current freshman group of front.
This week Auburn's offense will face a supreme challenge on the road in very loud and hostile environment. While veterans such as Dunlap might give the offensive line an experience boost if he were back this week, Nall says you've got to go with the guys that are practicing and preparing to play every day.
"It just depends on when he gets back and what his situation is," Nall says. "We've got to move on. We can't count on anybody to be healthy when we're not sure if they are or not. Once they are, have they fallen behind what we're doing with their techniques and fundamentals? I'm just going to keep moving on. You can't assume anything. Whoever I've got out there that's what you've got to coach and go to war with."