So here is Part VII of our running feature, Better Know an Auburn Assistant Coach, starring Grimes, who may or may not prefer to be called by Grimey.
On to the bullet points …
- He and head coach Gene Chizik didn’t have much of a relationship prior to joining up at Auburn, though Grimes coached at Colorado while Chizik was at Iowa State in the Big 12.
- Although he coached in the Western part of the country for the last couple years (Colorado, BYU, Arizona State and Boise State), his roots are in Texas, where both he and his wife are from. “I really like being in the South,” he said. “I like the people here. I love the idea of being in a smaller town, a college town, and raising my kids and having my family at a place that has similar values to the kind of place I grew up.”
- He was struck by how fast Gus Malzahn‘s offense will work, and this is coming from someone who has worked in some fairly unique, high-powered offenses before. “Being able to operate at a fast pace is something a lot of people don’t want to do,” he said. “I have done that at a couple of places I’ve been but not to this extent and not that consistently. That’s the biggest difference.”
- From the sounds of it, there will competition for playing time, but Grimes is not going to discount what guys have done here in the past, recognizing the fact that Auburn has four players — Ryan Pugh, Lee Ziemba, Byron “Lee” Isom and Mike “Big Snacks” Berry – who have experience, in some cases two years worth.
- On that subject: “I think the way you have to approach it anytime, particularly if you’re a new staff, you have to come in and say guys will have an opportunity to earn something. And that gives a guy maybe who hasn’t had a level of success he’d like to a fresh start. Guys all of a sudden have a renewed mindset because they get a clean slate so to speak.However, I don’t want to discount some of the things that have been done by some guys that have had success. We’ll certainly have a starting point but we’re not going to necessarily line up and say, ‘You guys are No. 1 until you lose the job.’ We’re going to say, ‘You guys have the opportunity to start out here,’ but this guy right here is right behind him and it may vary by day or by series.”
- An early starting five? Here’s a guess: LT Ziemba, LG Isom, C Pugh, RG Berry, RT Andrew McCain.
- Who else will contend? Jared Cooper, Bart Eddins, A.J. Green. “Some of those guys may be unproven on gamedays but may show us in spring ball that they’re just as deserving as starting as somebody else,” Grimes said. “Those guys will have the opportunity to do that.”
- Ziemba’s not quite at full speed after offseason surgery, “but he’s getting close,” Grimes said. He’ll be ready for spring.
- Auburn is undoubtedly low on numbers on the line, having signed only two offensive line recruits in its last two classes. That’s going to rear its head soon. Grimes said he would like to have 15 to 17 linemen on scholarship at all times. He’s got 10 right now. “It’s an urgent priority,” he said. “Typically, you’re not going to have guys coming in and playing a lot as true freshmen. That’s not the way you’d like for it to be. We’d like for those guys to come in and redshirt and have a year or two and get ready to go. But that’s fixing not to be the situation for us. Most of the guys we have on scholarship are juniors. We’re really heavily stacked in the junior class, which will be great for this year and next year, but not great after that.”
- Grimes said Auburn might target some junior college players to bridge the gap from the current junior class to the freshman class. He’d like to sign five or six offensive linemen next year.
- On what he looks for in recruits: “Guys have to, obviously, be big enough. Some people say they recruit guys who are 6-5 or taller, or only recruit guys who can run ‘this’ in the 40, or bench ‘this.’ I’m looking for the best guys we can find after that.”
- He had a funny take on what it’s like to play offensive line: “You’ve got to be a guy willing to put his hard hat on every day and work hard in the weight room and things that aren’t a whole lot of fun. It’s no fun getting out there and pushing the sled and doing all those silly drills that we do all the time. It’s not like going out there as receivers and catching balls and running routes and throwing and doing all that stuff. Think about it, when y’all were kids in the backyard you weren’t working on blocking people. You were doing your touchdown dance, and throwing and catching. An offensive lineman has to have the mentality that allows him to go out there and trudge away every day and be OK with that.”
- He called incoming freshmen Andre Harris and John Sullen “tweeners,” in that they could possibly play both guard and tackle.
- There’s a big question out there about how the linemen can stay big enough to play the physical brand of football that Auburn wants, yet be in good enough shape to run 80-plus plays, as Malzahn would prefer. Grimes would like his guys to be somewhere in the 300- to 310-pound range. That wasn’t the case last year when they wanted to be lighter on their feet to run Tony Franklin‘s offense.
- Grimes’ recruiting area is southeast Alabama as well as a little bit of Georgia and a little bit of Florida, though he didn’t specify where. He likes how so many talented players are in such a condensed area. “One of the challenges of being at a place like Colorado or Arizona State or Boise State, some of those places, you’ve got a few kids in-state but then everyone else, you’re having to travel quite a ways to grab some kids,” he said. “Here, we’ve got so many kids that are in driving distance that can come up for camp in the summer, come up for spring ball and watch practice. I think that certainly helps.”
- Grimes plans to work players at different positions in the spring, in order to build some artificial depth. He wants to have the five best players on the field at all times, which might require some shifting if somebody goes down with an injury.
- And finally, that shiner you see under Grimes’ right eye in the picture is courtesy of his 130-pound bull mastiff, which, sadly, had to be put to sleep last week. The two bumped heads as Grimes was trying to carry the dog down the stairs.