Auburn's New OL Coach Talks Football

Auburn's newly hired offensive line coach, Jeff Grimes, discusses his assignment and the players he will coach for the Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Last year for most of the Auburn offensive linemen the offseason focus was on dropping weight, working on quickness and improving stamina.

That was what 2008 offensive coordinator Tony Franklin wanted from the group.

With the Tigers featuring a new coaching staff and a new offensive system, the offseason focus for the Tigers on the OL is still on quickness and improving stamina, but new position coach Jeff Grimes says that within reason bigger should be better for most of the offensive linemen on the 2009 Auburn football team.

"We have a bunch of guys who are right in that 290 to 295 range that I am trying to get to get somewhere between 300 and 310, just depending on each kid," Grimes says.

"A lot of those guys have asked me, ‘Coach, where do I need to be?' and I have certainly had a conversation with each one of them about where I want them to be for spring ball.

"My belief on it is the bigger and more physical you can be the better off you are going to be able to move people and stop someone's charge," Grimes says. "However, you can't do that in a way that compromises your ability to bend and to be able to quickly change directions.

"To me it is an individual thing for each player," Grimes adds. "Some guys' best weight might be 295...I have had them as big as 330 or 340 so it just depends on the individual."

Grimes notes that when spring drills start on March 24th he should be able to get a better read on how his guards, tackles and centers are performing and will know more then about who needs to carry additional weight or less weight.

New Auburn head coach Gene Chizik hired Grimes for the Tigers from the University of Colorado. Chizik was a head coach in the same league (Big 12) at Iowa State the past two years and says that is where he became familiar with the job that Grimes had done at CU and previous stops as an offensive line coach.

New offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn says his goal will be to run a very fast-paced style of offense that will feature at least 80 plays per game. To do that the offensive linemen will have to be in exceptional physical condition to still be going strong late in the game.

Grimes says it may seem like it is demanding a lot to have players add the extra size plus extra stamina in the same offseason, but that is what he is expecting from the first group of Auburn players he will coach. "The guys who are committed and disciplined to eating the way they need to and spending the time in the weight room, they will do what it takes and will get it done," he contends.

Grimes spent the past two seasons as offensive line coach for head coach Dan Hawkins at Colorado. Grimes was also the assistant head coach and running game coordinator for the Buffaloes. He also coached with Hawkins at Boise State.

At Auburn he will have just one title as offensive line coach, but his responsibilities will be major with the Tigers having rebuilding to do on the offensive front. With two starters graduated, the team will have just 10 scholarship offensive linemen for spring drills and will add just two more linemen next season in signees John Sullen from Auburn High and Andre Harris from Lovejoy High in Georgia.

Grimes, who has also coached offensive linemen at BYU and Arizona State, says that he wants to eventually get to a minimum of 15 scholarship offensive linemen on the roster and the best number is 17, he says.

Included in the returnees are three starters–juniors to be Ryan Pugh and Lee Ziemba plus Byron Isom, who played guard last fall as a redshirt freshman. Pugh, who also played part-time at center last fall, will be moving to that position on a full-time basis this spring, Grimes says.

The plan is to keep Ziemba at left tackle where he played last season and give senior Andrew McCain and A.J. Greene a shot at the right offensive tackle spot where Pugh played last year.

Other possibilities for tackle include Mike Berry, Jared Cooper or Bart Eddins although they might be better fits at guard, Grimes notes. Berry has starting experience at guard.

The Tigers must replace starters and graduates Jason Bosley at center and Tyronne Green at guard.

Grimes makes a point that he is looking forward to recruiting for Auburn to bolster his OL group. "I think this is a place that sells itself anyway and one thing I am excited about is being at a place that has got some tradition," he says. Grimes also notes that there is a lot of talent close to the Auburn campus which is a plus for recruiting to AU, he says. At some of his other coaching stops he had to recruit way outside the region to find players for his system.

Jeff Grimes

Auburn's new offensive line coach says he is a strong believer in "cross training." The way he uses the phrase it means that he wants his tackles to know how to play guard and/or center and wants his centers and guards to know how to play tackle if they are needed there.

It is the coach's theory that when the offensive linemen know the assignments of the other guys up front on the OL they will be a more productive group on game days.

He also notes that he wants to have the best five linemen on the field when games are on the line so if the second string left guard is a better option to play at right guard or tackle if there is an injury at that position, he would rather move a player in from another spot than go with the guy who is number two on the depth chart but isn't as ready to play.

The Tigers are currently involved with their winter workouts that include 5:30 a.m. drills on the practice field two days a week plus daily weight training with strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall and his staff.

"The thing that I have probably been most impressed with, and not just with the offensive linemen but the team in general, is the eagerness and willingness to do what we are asking them to do," the coach says.

Grimes adds, "I have just really been pleased that they are just like sponges trying to learn as much as they can right now."

The Tigers will have 15 days of spring practice and will wrap up the spring session with the annual A-Day Game on Saturday, April 18th.

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