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March 25, 2013

Positional battles to watch: Offensive line

This is the sixth of an 8-day series previewing each Auburn position leading into spring football. Tomorrow: running backs.

Clemson_Auburn4_9-1-12

BY AARON BRENNER | abrenner@ledger-enquirer.com

@WarEagleExtra

AUBURN, Ala. – Patience will be the operative word with this offensive line, for this year at least.

John Sullen was the only long-standing holdover trusted on the line. Reese Dismukes and Chad Slade were back in there after being thrust into battle as freshmen in 2011, and Greg Robinson, Avery Young and Patrick Miller were each faced with the same rookie challenge in 2012.

Which means all the Tigers have to do is hand-pick a replacement for Sullen – and there are plenty of options waiting their turn, with SIX freshmen taking redshirts last season – and Auburn could very well have its starting five up front for the next two years.

So stability seems inevitable in the future. But for now, the task is figuring out how to block more consistently, in order to let talented skill players do their jobs without worrying about running all over Jordan-Hare Stadium away from monstrous end-rushers or blitzing defensive backs.

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AUBURN FOOTBALLHere’s a look at Auburn’s offensive line, leading into spring football practices:

Who’s been playing: C Reese Dismukes (jr.), RT Patrick Miller (so.), LT Greg Robinson (so.), RG Chad Slade (jr.), RT Avery Young (so.),

Who’s been waiting: Will Adams (r-fr.), Shane Callahan (r-fr.), Shon Coleman (r-fr.), Jordan Diamond (r-fr.), C Tunde Fariyike (jr.), Alex Kozan (r-fr.), Robert Leff (r-fr.)

Who’s out the door: John Sullen, Christian Westerman

Who’s in the door: OL Devonte Danzey (Tampa, Fla.), Deon Mix (Batesville, Miss.)

Who’s coaching ‘em up: J.B. Grimes, 34th year (7th in SEC)

Who’d he replace, where is he now: Jeff Grimes, Virginia Tech

Auburn Vanderbilt Football

Thoughts and musings:

Slade and Dismukes become the automatic leaders of this young group, each having been full-time starters throughout the past two years. Slade has some versatility to him, able to switch over to left tackle in case of injury, and leads all linemen with 25 career games played. He’s gotten used to serving as the group’s spokesman.

Dismukes, an all-SEC freshman center in 2011, hasn’t spoken with reporters since his arrest for public intoxication nine days before the 2012 opener and subsequent one-game suspension. There were also message board rumors – and a few subsequent reports – Dismukes was involved in a locker-room altercation just days before National Signing Day, a star-studded weekend for four- and five-star visitors including eventual Alabama-committed linebacker Reuben Foster.

Robinson had his growing pains, as well as being nicked-up late in the season, but he was ultimately judged as a success as a redshirt freshman left tackle. The Tigers’ run game was decisively shaded toward the left side, behind Robinson and Sullen.

Young suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury after starting the first three games of the season. He’s expected to be ready to return for spring practices.

The top redshirt freshmen looking to make a two-deep or even start: five-star Jordan Diamond and four-stars Shane Callahan and Shon Coleman.

With just two incoming prospects signing to play at Auburn this spring (one from the junior college ranks, Danzey, who’s already enrolled), the coaches were able to focus their recruiting efforts elsewhere. Danzey is a potential Sullen fill-in, and Nix was a nice gift after decommitting from his home-state Mississippi State.

Photo by Todd Van Emst

Statistically speaking:

148.4 – Rushing yards per 2012 game for Auburn, ranking 80 th in the nation. The Tigers also lingered in the 80-90 range, rank-wise, in total yards, touchdowns and yards per carry, despite boasting a 1,000-yard rusher in Tre Mason.

93 – Tackles for loss allowed by Auburn, 116th in the country out of 124 FBS teams.

257 – Pass attempts by Auburn, 118th in the country.

37 – Sacks allowed by Auburn, 107th in the country.

31.7 – Third-down conversion rate by Auburn, 120th in the country.

315 – The listed weight for 6-foot-4 Deon Mix, the incoming freshman from South Panola HS in Batesville, Miss. On the entire current Auburn roster, only Jordan Diamond (6-6, 323) outweighs Mix.

Good Twitter follows: Chad Slade @ChadSlade62  (3,650 followers) comes off as just your average down-to-earth college student more so than many football players. When he blurted at a press conference leading up to the Georgia game “it’s not that hard” to block All-America linebacker Jarvis Jones, Slade was bombarded by mouthy Georgia fans on Twitter, and to his credit, Slade took the heat in stride. Greg Robinson @GregRobinson73 (368 followers) is a month into joining Twitter, and Shon Coleman @TheRealBigShon (2,552 followers) has a pretty sweet photo combo of himself in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and a background shot of his native Memphis. Finally, Shane Callahan @BigDaddyCalla77 (1,644 followers) simply has a fantastic Twitter handle.

AUBURN FOOTBALLSay what? “I see some guys with size right now. They’re big guys. I see some athleticism there that I like. We’ll know more about their toughness and their character as we get further into the program. If it’s important to them and they can take good, hard, tough, fair coaching, then those guys have a chance to be pretty good in the Southeastern Conference.” – Grimes

6 Comments

  1. I generally appreciate your reporting Mr. Brenner and find that you do a fine job of carrying on the tradition of the Ledger-Enquirer having one of the best AU beats in the business, but I really don’t much care for you or any other reporter including “message board rumours” in a story. If those rumours/allegations can be substantiated that’s one thing. But as far as I know there has been zero substantiation of the “Dismukes was involved in a locker-room altercation just days before National Signing Day” allegations beyond the pseudo-anonymous message board posters spreading those allegations saying “I swear it’s true!”

    If you have some substantiation, please refer to that. But referring to “message board rumours”? Poor form there. Very poor form.

    Comment by Roman Berry — March 25, 2013 @ 7:45 am

  2. I understand your point, Roman, and no, it’s not really Kosher to use message board stuff in stories. Believe me, nobody tries to deter from the boards more than me. What should be pointed out is those rumors did lead to reports from some outlets (albeit mostly in Tuscaloosa) of a potential altercation, and it’s something that can’t be completely ignored. I’ve actually changed the wording to reflect as such.
    Thanks for reading,
    AB

    Comment by Aaron Brenner — March 25, 2013 @ 9:05 am

  3. I’ve never been nor ever will be a football player, and I’m a little scared of Coach Grimes.

    Comment by Nancy Cooper — March 25, 2013 @ 9:22 am

  4. Diamond has to be one of the most impressive 323 pounders in college football. The guy is rock solid and looks mean as hell. I hope he plays the same way. He and Avery Young look to be very solid pieces for the OL going forward.

    Comment by mark — March 25, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

  5. [...] Part I: Defensive backs Part II: Linebackers Part III: Defensive line Part IV: Special teams Part V: Quarterbacks Part VI: Offensive line [...]

    Pingback by Positional battles to watch: Running backs | War Eagle Extra — March 26, 2013 @ 7:02 am

  6. [...] II: Linebackers Part III: Defensive line Part IV: Special teams Part V: Quarterbacks Part VI: Offensive line Part VII: Running [...]

    Pingback by Gus Malzahn press conference: 4 pm ET blog | War Eagle Extra — March 26, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

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