AUBURN, Ala. — The jury is still out on Auburn’s offensive line.
That isn’t meant to be taken negatively. Rhett Lashlee just believes people should wait until the end of the year to assess a “final judgment” of the unit’s performance.
Auburn’s offensive coordinator was willing to make one evaluation of the offensive line’s play to this point, however.
“I can tell you this: I think they’re night and day where they are right now than when we got here,” Lashlee said. “(Offensive line coach) J.B. Grimes, you can say it every week, he’s done an incredible job physically with the fundamentals and the psyche of those guys up front. I think it would be hard to find an O-line playing better as a unit and as a group in the country.”
Reese Dismukes wouldn’t dispute that assertion. Just as Lashlee did, the junior center credited Grimes’ with the line’s improved play in 2013.
Nothing the coach brought in was groundbreaking; it’s just that his emphasis on the basics clicked with players through daily repetition.
“His big thing is really to go out there every day and get better and work on fundamentals and technique, and as far as when you get in the game, the only thing that matters is this play, that play,” said Dismukes, who was selected as the SEC’s offensive lineman of the week for the first time this season after Auburn’s 43-38 victory over Georgia. “He'll tell us (how we played) when the game's over.”
Aside from Grimes’ influence, Tre Mason pointed to another factor fueling the line’s stellar showings this fall.
“The season we had last year in itself made those guys that much better and that much more motivated to get the job done,” the junior running back said. “I’d say that was one of the main reasons, us being 3-9, for those guys being so motivated.”
Of course, no player has been a bigger beneficiary of the line’s exemplary performances this season than Mason. There’s a reason the Florida native leads the SEC in rushing yards (1,153) and touchdowns (17), after all. And the confidence of the line has never been higher, Mason said.
At the beginning of the year, the unit would dissect film, looking for any weaknesses they could find in an opponents’ defensive line.
With eleven games under its belt, the Tigers have moved well past that point.
“Now those guys don’t even care what defense you put in front of them,” Mason said. “You go into a goal line defense and they’re going to find a way to block you. Those guys are playing together as one and doing unbelievable things up front.”
Setting such a high standard leads to increased expectations. Lashlee didn’t tiptoe around the subject, either.
As he views it, the success or failure of the Tigers’ offense week-to-week hinges on the play of its line.
“Those guys know they (have) got to bring it every week,” Lashlee said. “It’s just like the quarterback — they can’t have an off week or we’re not going to get the results we want.”