AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s offensive line has received plenty of praise lately, appropriately so considering the group is paving the way for the Tigers to average 307.7 rushing yards per game, fourth most nationally.
But offensive line coach Jeff Grimes doesn’t think the veteran group has reached its full potential yet.
“We haven’t arrived yet,” he said. “We’re not to the point that I think we can be.”
In their last five SEC games, the Tigers have rushed for 334, 311, 330, 440 and 343 yards, thanks to seniors Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Ryan Pugh and Byron Isom.
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But Grimes thinks there are little things the group can do better technique-wise that could up those totals.
“There are times where we’ll execute a particular scheme or a particular technique really, really well against some really, really good defensive players,” he said. “And then there are other times, maybe even the same game, maybe even the next play, where it doesn’t quite look the same for a variety of reasons.”
Auburn is on pace for 4,307 rushing yards if it plays 14 games this season, which would shatter the school record of 3,438 set in 1985.
Does that make this the best group Grimes has worked with?
“I’m not willing to say that yet,” he said. “Let’s wait until the season’s over and then we’ll see.”
With injuries limiting bodies at cornerback, Auburn has had to get two true freshmen up to speed — Chris Davis and Ryan White.
The Tigers have been without T’Sharvan Bell (hamstring) since the Arkansas game three weeks ago. Starter Neiko Thorpe nearly didn’t play against LSU because of a hand injury.
It forced Auburn to get others ready. Davis has played in all nine games but only recently has taken on more responsibilities as the nickelback. He has also worked more on the base defense.
“He can play two positions pretty solid right now mentally,” cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley said.
White, who dabbled at quarterback during two-a-days, burned his redshirt against Ole Miss to serve as the team’s fourth cornerback.
“We had to have somebody athletic enough to help play the guys in this league,” Lolley said. “And he’s the guy. I feel very confident in him.”
Lolley has an ace in the hole with senior safety Zac Etheridge, who has worked some at nickelback this week.
Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s responded to his name surfacing in a Denver Post columnist’s article as a possible replacement for Dan Hawkins if Colorado fires him at the end of the season.
“To be honest, I’m in my own little world,” Malzahn said Tuesday. “My entire focus is on this team and making it the best it can be. I’m extremely happy. I’ve said that time and time again. I love coach (Gene) Chizik and I love coaching these kids. And my only focus is trying to win games and trying to win a championship.”
Malzahn’s Tigers are among the best in the country in most major offensive statistical categories. They’re sixth in total offense (496.2 ypg) and 10th in scoring offense (40.0).
“Somewhere down the line I’d like to (be a head coach),” he said. “I’m in no hurry. I feel like a lot of people think I am. But like I’ve said before, we’ve got a good thing going here and I’d like to see it through.”
Safety Izauea Lanier is no longer an Auburn commitment for 2011, according to AuburnUndercover.com.
Lanier, from Gordo, Ala., signed with the Tigers first in 2009 but did not qualify. He has been at East Mississippi Community College the last two years, redshirting this season.
He committed to Auburn again in February but re-opened his recruitment recently.
Lanier is the Tigers’ second decommit in the last month, joining Fort Lauderdale, Fla., cornerback Devin Gaulden. Auburn currently has 13 commitments for 2011.