BY RYAN BLACK | email@example.com
AUBURN, Ala. — One week into fall camp, Auburn isn’t any closer to knowing the identity of its starting right tackle.
The two candidates battling for the job were both starters at the position last season. Avery Young was in the starting lineup for Auburn’s first three games of 2012 before going down with a shoulder injury. Patrick Miller then stepped in and started the final nine games, and held down the position during the spring while Young recovered from surgery on his injured shoulder.
Getting back on the field and becoming reacclimated with the speed of the game is the most important thing for Young now.
“It’s no different than shooting a 3-point shot,” offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said. “If you go through a full year and you don’t shoot threes, your percentage shooting threes isn’t going to be a real good one the first time you go out there on the court. So we’ve just got to knock the rust off.”
Both Young and Miller have seen time with the first-team offense during fall camp, but Grimes said focusing on that would be a case of misplaced priorities.
“The No. 1 thing is just to get them both reps and evaluate,” he said. “It’s not, ‘Who’s No. 1 and who’s No. 2?’ It’s how many reps they’ve had. That’s the key component right now.”
Grimes wouldn’t put a cutoff date on naming a starter. That would be overstepping his bounds, since he said that would be left up to head coach Gus Malzahn. Grimes hopes one player has clearly separated himself by the end of next week, though.
He also said the coaching staff will at least begin putting together a tentative depth chart heading into Saturday’s scrimmage.
“Trying to figure out, ‘Hey, who are the top guys? Who (makes up) our two-deep (depth chart)?’” Grimes said. “And that will probably take place tomorrow and Sunday. We’ll have a huge personnel discussion this afternoon and (discuss) what happens if this guy goes down, who’s going to do this, and what are the different scenarios you would do.”
MORE GRIMES QUOTE(S)**
**NOTE: I walked in during the middle of this answer, but I assume Grimes had been been asked what gains he had seen from the unit since the spring. (The paragraph breaks are my own.)
“So you’re able to see each day, each scrimmage how much better they got, and it culminated in the A-Day Game. And I’m looking at small defects. I’m looking at those things like extension and steps and pad level, hand placement and footwork, eyes — things like that. And there was just an unbelievable amount of improvement from the first day we went to the field to the day we played the A-Day game. And we’ll make those same kinds of improvements during the course of this year, because we get 29 practices. We only get 15 in the spring, so we almost double-up our practices before we play our first ballgame.
“Now the whole key for us right now is the discipline to carry the coaching and carry those details out on the field and not let yourself fall prey to doing your own thing when the play starts. One of the key coaching components is this: To make it as black-and-white as you can pre-snap. Before that ball is snapped, you know what you see in front of you. You know exactly where that foot, those eyes, those hands are going to go pre-snap. It makes you a more efficient player when all hell breaks loose when the ball is snapped. Then, instinct takes over. But if you can keep it black-and-white pre-snap, that’s the essence of coaching. And that’s the essence of coaching: being able to buy into those things.
“The biggest thing that we have to work on now is the discipline of taking that to the field when I’m not out there with them. I’m not going to play a down. I’m just going to watch. So hopefully they’ll have the discipline to be able to do that.”
(Yes, believe it or not, that constituted one response from Grimes. I’d wager Malzahn could have answered 10-12 questions in that same span.)