Lindsey And Other Linemen Making Progress

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall likes what he is seeing from his improving group that includes Danny Lindsey, a player who may take on a new role for Auburn's homecoming game.

Auburn, Ala.--For a player that Hugh Nall considers a natural center, Danny Lindsey is having a strong sophomore season as an Auburn guard.

Lindsey is one of the reasons that Nall, the offensive line coach of the Tigers, has been much happier with the results he has seen from the group in the second half of the season. Having to replace three seniors from the 2001 starting lineup, Nall predicted the Auburn OL would be going through growing pains all season, but noted he expected to see improvement as the season progressed. That is exactly what has happened.

With Ben Nowland a fifth-year senior as the returning starter at center, the decision was made during the offseason that Lindsey needed to move outside to guard because he was too talented of a player to be riding the pines behind Nowland. The move has paid dividends as the true sophomore has been a big reason that Auburn is averaging 212.2 rushing yards per game, which is third in the SEC, and 403 total yards per game, which is second in the league.

Auburn's offensive line prepares to huddle at Ole Miss for Jason Campbell. (73)Marcus McNeil, (65) Monreko Crittenden, (55)Ben Nowland, (68)Danny Lindsey, and (69) Mark Pera.

Like virtually all young offensive linemen, Lindsey is working to improve his consistency, but when he has been good, he has been very, very good. His LSU game effort was perhaps the best performance by any Auburn lineman as he graded 97 percent on 56 plays vs. the Bayou Bengals. He had the same high grade vs. Western Carolina in game two. Lindsey graded 84 percent at Ole Miss on 68 plays. In that game, he went down with a "stinger." The blow to the upper back/neck area didn't keep the tough lineman on the sideline very long though. He was back on the field after sitting out just one play.

"We took Danny thinking he would be a center and I think he is a pretty good center," Nall says. "It has been a big adjustment for him to go from the center position to the guard position. You know, his last year in high school he played offensive tackle. The biggest thing he has had to adjust to is pass protection. He is a good run blocker. He is quick off the ball. Unfortunately, too quick a lot of times, but he is a very aggressive kid and that hurts in pass protection. That is the biggest adjustment he has had to make and still having to make."

Nowland notes that Lindsey is so quick at moving on the snap count that Nowland has to be on his toes to center the ball immediately when quarterback Jason Campbell gives the signal or else the Tigers could get an illegal motion penalty.

"Danny Lindsey is young," Nall notes. "That is what I have to keep reminding myself. You can't get on them to the point where you ruin their spirit because I love the way that kid plays. I tell them all the time you have to be schizophrenic to play the offensive line. One minute we are coming off the ball aggressively and the next minute you have to sit back and be under control. You don't want to say passive, but you have to have more of a controlled aggression than it is in run blocking."

Lindsey says that playing for Nall keeps him on his toes. "We all respect him," Lindsey says. "He expects perfection. We try to give it to him as close as we can."

Nall liked Lindsey enough to play him immediately as a true freshman last year. The former Coffee High All-State and prep All-American from Douglas, Ga., is an honor student who graduated from high school early so he could go through winter workouts and spring drills with the Tigers in 2001. The head start got him ready to play that fall. He played in eight games as a true freshman and started the Vanderbilt game after taking over for Nowland, who went down with an injury in the Syracuse game.

In the spring Lindsey was named the most improved offensive lineman to set the stage for a move to full-time starting status.

In the preseason, Nall had hoped to build a steady five-man playing rotation and stick with it from game one through the bowl contest. However, injuries have not let that happen. Starting tackle Taylor Bourgeois was lost for the season with shoulder surgery. The other starting tackle, Mark Pera, was sidelined in the preseason with an injury and began the season at less than full speed. Freshmen Troy Reddick and Marcus McNeill have been battling injuries. "We have had a couple of linemen go down and have had to have people step in," Lindsey says. "We have had three or four people step in and do a good job. That goes back to coaching."

Danny Lindsey (68) is shown at football practice.

Lindsey says that Nowland is doing a good job of being a senior leader on the offensive front. He also notes that junior Monreko Crittenden is developing into a leader, too. "He has really stepped it up from last year."

With Lindsey and Crittenden at the guards and Nowland at center, the Tigers have had success moving the football between the tackles. Pera has played well at weak tackle all season and the strong tackle has been handled by Bourgeois and McNeill with help from Crittenden.

Nall will have all of his offensive linemen back next year with the exception of Nowland, however, the veteran coach says that Lindsey should be able to step in for Nowland at center for 2002 and be quite ready to get the job done there physically and mentally. Nall notes that Lindsey is developing into a leader, too. "He speaks up, even in a young role he is in now. He is a smart kid. I don't know how really vocal he is, but the other kids know when he says something he means it and he is usually right. That is what you need at the center position."

Tiger fans who attend the homecoming game on Saturday could see a preview of Lindsey working at center, a position he played last year. Nowland should be able to play against Louisiana-Monroe, but is recovering from a thumb injury he suffered in the 31-24 victory at Ole Miss last Saturday and it won't be surprising to see his playing time limited, especially if the heavily favored Tigers can jump on the Indians early and build a comfortable lead. Kickoff time for the contest is 1 p.m. from Jordan-Hare Stadium as the Tigers look to improve their record to 7-3 on Senior Day.

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