Grimes Sees OL Improvement, But Work Needed

A report on the Auburn football team's offensive line is featured.

Auburn, Ala.--New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes says the players he is working with made progress in spring training, but have plenty of work to do.

Auburn completed its 15th and final spring practice on Sunday and that means the pads and helmets will be put in storage until preseason drills start in August.

"You know as players they are dang ready for spring to be over," Grimes says. "As coaches we wish we could have another month. It is always that way."

With players featuring starting experience returning at the other offensive line positions, the big question going into spring was at right tackle with last year's starter there, Ryan Pugh, moving to center to take over for graduated starter Jason Bosley.

Grimes notes that he told McCain before the start of practice, "The great thing is, you have got a clean slate with me and you have got a fresh start. It is a chance for you to start from scratch. You don't want to look back five or 10 years from now and say, 'What if I had given it my all?' You don't want to have regrets later on in life.

"I encouraged him to really give everything he has got to this next year of football," Grimes adds. "He has really done a good job of that. I am really, really pleased with his work ethic and he has actually shown a lot of leadership for a guy who hasn't played a lot. I think as a senior he has taken some of that on his shoulders, particularly in the way he shows up to work every day. He is like everybody--he has a lot of room to improve, but I am really pleased with where he is right now."

Jeff Grimes is shown at practice.

Grimes was hoping to get some backups ready for game action, but says that is still a work in progress.

"Honestly, I would have preferred to be in a situation where we had more competition going because competition makes everybody better," he says. "Hopefully, that will come after we get some of these guys back going full speed and get our new guys in the fall, but I am pleased with the progress that we have made more than anything in terms of the mindset."

Injuries to backup linemen Bart Eddins, A.J. Greene and Darrell Roseman made it difficult to evaluate those guys.

Commenting on former defensive linemen Green and Roseman, who played in the A-Day Game, Grimes says, "Both of them missed a little bit of spring for various reasons. I think they both would have been further along had they not had to miss a week or two in there. I think both of them showed they have potential and showed they have the opportunity to get into the mix next year, but still have to prove a whole lot more before we feel like they are actually ready to actually compete for a spot.

"I would say we are glad we were able to get them out there and see what they could do, but obviously a guy like Darrell who has missed so much football the last few years is just incredibly rusty and has a long way to go, but he does have some ability.

"A.J. hasn't missed as much football, but he hasn't played a lot of offense so for him it is just learning how to play the game. I think they both have got some potential they have got this spring."

Eddins, another former defensive lineman, is more experienced on offense than Green or Roseman, but a knee problem kept him sidelined. Grimes says he believes Eddins can help the Tigers when he gets back to full speed. "I would love to see him get right in there with everybody else and compete for a spot, but only time will tell," the coach says.

Pugh, a two-year starter who will be a junior this fall, is working out nicely as a full-time center, says Grimes, who notes that the coach's son understands what is going on at the line of scrimmage. "He has got a lot of knowledge of the game that some other guys don't have. That knowledge of the game is crucial for a center and he does a great job thinking, making quick decisions and communicating with the group."

Ryan Pugh saw some game action at center last season.

Lining up next to Pugh, one of the guards made progress this spring, Grimes says. "Lee Isom did a tremendous job in the run game. He just really, really brings it on every play. He comes off and knocks people off the ball.

"The other guys all made progress in different areas and those are just two examples (Isom and Pugh) that I threw out. I wouldn't say that anybody stands out above anybody else. Again, there are different areas for everybody. I would say all five (first stringers) are in a very similar position at this point."

Mike Berry is expected to play guard for the Tigers this fall, but was pressed into duty at center in the A-Day Game when backup center Andrew Parmer, walk-on redshirt freshman, was hurt in practice.

Grimes says, "He is a guy who is very versatile and can do different things for us. I am really pleased with his progress and his development in terms of work ethic. He is a smart guy who can take coaching and get better. For a guy to be able to move from playing left guard in one series to center the next, and do that all in one day, that says a lot about his dependability and us being able to rely on him."

Both of the first team tackles, Lee Ziemba (73) and Andrew McCain (75), improved this spring, according to Jeff Grimes.

Across the offensive line, the Tigers improved with what the coach calls the "technical aspects of the game." He says, "Just learning our offense against various fronts and blitzes and stunts, and all of those types of things, we still need a whole lot more work.

"We still need a whole lot more work in the little things--the consistency of using hands, footwork, helmet placement. Hopefully, they will get a lot done over the summer and they will come into fall camp with even greater advancement in those areas." Grimes, who was hired away from the University of Colorado, is in his first season working with new Auburn head coach Gene Chizik.

L "I told them at the beginning of spring my number one goal was to just to develop the right mindset, attitude and toughness, and a blue collar work ethic," Grimes says. "Coach Chizik talks about that all of the time, but for me and the offensive line, everywhere I have been, I have always felt like that starts with the offensive line.

"An offense is only going to be tough and have a hard edge if the OL is that way," Grimes contends. "To some extent, even the team. If we don't get after it every day when we are going against our own defense and our defense doesn't get to have that level of competition...I think it makes everybody better if we play that way. I am pleased with the progress we have made in that regard--not content, but feel like we have moved in the right direction. We have definitely taken a step."

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories