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Tuesday’s Game-Week Thoughts

By on August 28th, 2018 in Football 30 Comments »

Jarrett Stidham will lead No. 9 Auburn against No. 6 Washington in the College Football Kickoff Classic

It is finally game week, and in just a few days, half the teams in America will have a loss. For some teams, that loss won’t torpedo their chances to be in contention for a national championship run. In just a few days, all the superlatives, all the hyperbole, all of the preseason talk simply will not matter. Perhaps the best part of all of this is how the off-field issues will take a back seat, if not disappear altogether, when play on the field begins. 

For the most part, there isn’t a team in America to which this applies more than the Auburn Tigers. Of course Auburn hasn’t had any legitimate off-field concerns, a refreshing experience compared to the much of the nation and a true testament to what having a good Christian man will do for a program. Between the lines, Auburn will set the tone for the year in the biggest game of week one as it takes on No. 6 Washington in the Kickoff Classic.

All of the questions about the Tigers that have filled the summer discussions will likely be answered this Saturday in Atlanta when Chris Peterson’s Huskies meet the Tigers. None of those questions are new to you readers, but my thoughts on them may be. 

Regardless of his desire to stay on the west coast, it’s only a matter of time before Chris Petersen is lured away to the SEC. His family has kept him localized to that area where he has become one of the top three X’s and O’s coaches in the country. He’s done more with less than anyone else, first at Boise State and now at Washington. Petersen has the most experienced quarterback in the nation with Jake Browning, one of the very best backs in Myles Gaskin, and one of the top defenses in college football.

That, folks, is a recipe for a national championship run, if there ever was one. Despite having to replace some key defenders as well as NFL receiver Dante Pettis, Washington is still loaded. And nobody coaches players up and has them prepared for game day like Petersen.

On the other side of the field will be Auburn coach, Gus Malzahn. Recruiting top-tier talent has never been an issue for Malzahn. Getting that talent to perform up to its billing has been. With the addition of Kevin Steele as defensive coordinator, the defense is finally becoming an elite unit that performs to expectations. However, while Malzahn’s offense has shown flashes of dominance since his arrival in 2013, there have also been issues with offensive game preparation as well as player development. While I know this may be an unpopular opinion, nontheless it has been, at times, an issue.

The woes in development have come at two specific spots: quarterback and receiver. Malzahn has yet to take a kid out of high school and turn him into a legit playmaker. Sean White could have been that player, but he left the team after at least showing signs of life when he wasn’t a busted-up player.

Still, Gus has proven with Jarrett Stidham that he can make a quarterback better. The Baylor transfer didn’t look the part of an elite QB at the start of 2017, yet he looked like a first rounder by season’s end. Hopefully we’ll see even more improvement after a full year under Chip Lindsey and coach Malzahn.

In terms of receivers, Auburn has recruited the position better than anyone in the country but has yet to take those recruits and make them anything other than a deep-ball catching group of players. So far, Malzahn has put this group in the hands of two former Auburn players, neither of whom truly played the position. Kodi Burns is now listed as a co-coordinator for the Tigers, a meteoric rise for any young coach much less one who hasn’t proven that he has the chops to elevate his position group’s play. With a new O-line and the lack of a proven running back, the short and intermediate passing game will be the lifeblood of this offense early in the year, and Burns’ group is the linchpin for success in that scenario. 

Traditionally, Malzhan’s preparation for the season’s first game has left much to be desired. While Auburn has won most of those contests, they’ve never been pretty. Case in point was last season’s opener with Georgia Southern. The 41–7 score didn’t truly reflect that Stidham was sacked three times and had less than 200 yards passing and an interception. Auburn ran the ball effectively behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. Yet, the next week, the line surrendered 11 sacks to Clemson. That line was eventually reshuffled and became dominant down the stretch. In the 2016 loss to Clemson, Auburn looked like it hadn’t game-planned at all as six players took snaps from center.

The 2013 Washington State, 2014 Arkansas, and 2015 Louisville wins were great for the win-loss column, but in retrospect, each showed a flaw which would become an alarming trend: Malzahn has not shown an ability to use extended time to prepare for opponents. This has shown up, time and again in bowl games, the most recent being the head-scratching loss to UCF. Derrick and I have discussed this in depth multiple times in our podcast (which you can listen to on Soundcloud by clicking this link)

This year offers some new preparation challenges for Malzahn because, for the first time in his tenure, there is a serious question at running back. Kam Martin has been tabbed as the starter by virtually everyone, but these people are just looking at the “next man up” based on last year’s stats. Martin will not be the feature back by the LSU game. JaTarvious Whitlow will.

The bigger question is be the offensive line. Even with a deep group of upperclassmen, Malzahn exited fall camp with Prince Tega Wanogho as a starter. Despite Wanogho being obviously over his head against Georgia Southern in 2017, Malzahn and position coach Herb Hand doggedly stuck with him until after the Clemson loss. Eventually, transfer Casey Dunn came to center, moving Austin Golson out to his natural position at guard and things clicked. But, once again, it made fans wonder what Malzahn and Hand had been seeing all summer and fall.

This season will feature essentially a new and relatively inexperienced line, a bad thing for a team that relies on running the ball in the SEC. It’s possible they will over achieve and come out of the gate ready to compete, but most likely Stidham and the short to intermediate passing game are going to have to carry the load, a liability as mentioned above. 

The game in Atlanta will set the tone for the season, and while Auburn can easily lose this game and still make the playoff, Washington cannot. This is the chink in Auburn’s armor that should have fans on edge about the opener. Auburn has little motivation to win this game other than pride. Malzahn has proven thus far that his preparation relies on evolving his team over the season. And, this year he won’t have a veteran offensive line to road grade for whomever might be toting the rock. These are not problems for the team on the other sideline.

The saving grace is that Auburn’s defense will be ready, and it has more depth and talent than Washington can deal with for an entire game. Auburn is favored in this game, as they should be, but Malzahn has to have this team ready to play to come out with the victory.

30 Comments

  1. neonbets says:

    Great stuff, Zach.

    I think Washington is overrated. Last year, they only played 2 ranked teams–and one of them was the even more overrated Washington State team. Auburn wins 28-16.

    BTW, here’s a screenshot of the latest depth chart from someone on Twitter. This is an impressive looking team!

    https://twitter.com/BMattAU/status/1034473340390572032

  2. meathead530 says:

    “but Malzahn has to have this team ready to play to come out with the victory.”

    This.

    I don’t know what it is, but I hope he has the team ready he did for the 1st Georgia game and the Iron Bowl. I hope it’s not like the 2nd Georgia game or the UCF game.

    I have a feeling it will start sloppy. Auburn will be down 10-0 at the half, but then come roaring back the 2nd half and win 24-13.

  3. sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

    What I’m anticipating for the first game

    – Three fast start, deep strike offensive series that end in three Auburn scores.
    – A stuff of the Huskie offense during the same time frame
    – An adjustment phase for both teams while they trade scores in the middle quarters
    – A slight comeback by Washington and a rather conservative end game by AU

    Final – AU 35 UW 21

  4. KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

    I’m counting on our defensive line to bust up the pocket and disrupt Washington’s QB. I think the front seven will handle their running attack. That leaves our secondary against their QB and receivers. As long as their QB has to scramble and/or never gets a chance to find anyone open for fear of getting sacked, we should be able to neutralize their air game.

    Our kicker is better than theirs. In a game like this, that will make a difference.

    That just leaves our unknown offense against their defense. Like I said, I’m counting on our defense and our kicker. Everything else will be a surprise.

  5. Man, brutal!! LOL. “Auburn has little motivation to win this game other than pride.” Say what? This has got to be ‘the year’ Auburn steps up, on the road, vs. a quality opponent and wins. Period. It sounds like we should just get used to opening our season like a wounded duck. Are we an elite program or not? We start with Washington and take care of business. This game matters in every way. The entire nation will be eyeballing this game.

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      We’ve lost at least one game in the first month of every single season under Malzahn. That’s a fact. We do, in fact, start seasons like a wounded duck.

      • Jonathon Jonathon says:

        Zack, you are correct in that fact… But… As fans we shouldn’t succumb to this. Someone thought it was okay enough to hike Malzhans pay and stay for glaring and concerning shortcomings. I’m not on board with that. But since that was done we need to demand more of Malzahn which is why this Washington game means A Lot!! This is Malzahn’s chance to prove his worth and overcome a huge glitch in his leadership. We all need to recognize this fact as well.

  6. easyedwin easyedwin says:

    UW is full of trick plays. Trick plays will keep UW in the game until the 3rd. quarter. Nick Coe will become famous. Whitlow runs wild. Ausie punts like a missile and Carlson scores 12.
    41-27 AUBURN !!!

  7. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..The depth chart I saw this morning has Aiden Marshall ahead of Siposs, at punter. Shocker!

  8. greyfox says:

    I disagree about the chink in the armor. If I’m any Auburn fan or player with half a brain or heart, the stats around season openers, ranked opponents away, etc under Malzahn are so embarrassing that it would give me more than enough motivation to win. (Full disclosure, I’m an Auburn fan, Malzahn fan, and fan of the facts).

    Your analysis is more of the same that anyone could find anywhere. I agree regarding Malzahn’s trouble with preparation for games and early season woes. I have always been on the fence regarding Malzahn’s ability to win championships, but I believe a lack of success can be attributed to either terrible defensive play (see 2013/14) or the components of the offense that I highlight below. Your final point regarding the line is criminally simplistic. The 2013 squad that road-graded everyone by mid-season featured 3 underclassmen and very little incoming experience (only LT and C if I’m not mistaken). Last year’s line had a 4 Seniors with immense experience and incredible talent. Age and talent are important on the line. At Auburn, it’s a given. Coaching isn’t.

    From an offensive standpoint, at least one of these components has been missing since 2014:

    1. appropriate personnel usage
    2. appropriate play calling (and preparation)
    3. good line coach (read: Grimes).

    If I’m not mistaken, in 2013 Malzahn was calling all the plays and our glorified GA “Offensive Coordinator” was put where he was supposed to be: spying defensive formations at the 2nd and 3rd level. Combine Malzahn’s play calling for Marshall & Mason’s exquisite execution with Grimes’s line coaching, and we were absolutely dominant. 2014 was largely similar, with Lashlee taking more ownership of the play calling (but with the same exact format and personnel). 2015/16 were so terrible they made my eyes bleed because these components were WAY OFF. Lashlee tried two years in a row to teach a kid how to be a qb. Any success he had with White was so sporadic that it’s hardly worth praising.

    Gus’s football genius starts and ends with formations and plan (and motivation, but that’s not totally quantifiable); he desperately needs someone who can execute his vision for the line/hb/te (blocking) and qb/rb (ball movers). Grimes (2013-2015; 2018-) is an executor; Hand (2016-17) and Lashlee (2013-2016) were not.

    Enter Lindsey. 2017 saw massive improvement, and not just because of a veteran line (more on that below), Stidham and KJ/KP. We actually had a play caller who worked WITH the players. Any success from a play calling standpoint with Marshall was due to Gus’s understanding of running (or Lashlee’s mimicry) and any success with White was due to Lashlee’s marginal understanding of a modern passing offense (combined with a terrifying OL from 2013-2015). Please take a moment to study the spreadsheet I attach; our terrible 2015 season was actually better to 2017 in terms of line play. 2017 was so drastically different because we finally had an OC who understood the role Stidham would be playing. But…we had massive flaws in the OL coaching that resulted in one of the worst sack rates in FBS (94th). Talented players like James were either brilliant or clueless. B Smith was even out of position all too often. The only reason we had any success on the line was because upperclassmen Dunn/Golson/Smith/Horton weren’t completely ruined by Hand’s illegitimate coaching…AND (perhaps most importantly)… Lindsey adjusted to Hand’s terrible OL preparation/coaching by calling plays that let the line do what they naturally did anyway: not block. Hence…84 catches for Ryan Davis (84 catches was good for first in the SEC by a long shot; yet, he was 34th in ypc). Still, the difference between line play at home and away was so stark that you could easily see this wasn’t a very well-coached unit (38pts home vs 29.7 away/neutral, even with two #1s at home).

    Exit Hand. Enter Grimes. Now…we have the 2013/14 components again:
    1. A play caller equipped to call
    2. for a QB who can execute.
    3. A line coach good enough to prepare an OL to execute the INCREDIBLY nuanced moves required at this level.

    I appreciate your time and effort into covering the players, but it’s irritating to read articles that mislead so many people into thinking they are the only pieces that matter. Well, that and Malzahn (c’mon, is he really “developing” Stidham???). If our line is excellent, it will take a few games for that to happen and it will have very little to do with the NFL-talent-worthiness of the individual players. Moreover, I’m fully convinced that most 3-star+ talent at RB is able to pick up 1000+ yards in a season if these factors are present. Please stop being simplistic and accessible; Verne did that for us. Dig, and you might educate your readers.

    -Greyfox

    Stats attached

  9. Jonathon Jonathon says:

    Greyfox with the check-and-mate.

    We need a win Saturday!! WDE! Let’s go get it. Let’s change the narrative.

  10. Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

    I appreciate all the digging, but apparently my tongue-in-cheek doesnt translate.

    If you listened to the podcast or read my articles from last year, you’d know I was well aware of herb hands issues. I called it an incestuous hire. I questioned line play for the first half of the year.

    You think I really believe malzahn will develope stidham?!?!??! Lol.

    • greyfox says:

      Didn’t listen to the podcast, but you are spot on in calling it incestuous. Almost as bad as the Lashlee hire.

      We clearly had line issues at the first of the year…anyone could see that. My argument is that we had line issues all year. Lindsey just disguised them. It was our OL that cost us the SEC championship, the LSU game, and the Clemson game. All away/neutral games.

      It’s pretty telling to me that you don’t respond to the actual content of my comment. A healthy online dialogue involves disagreement and discussion. We might both learn something. The tertiary benefit is perhaps the greatest: others can read and come to their own conclusions, and either comment or not.

      I’m optimistic about the strengths of this team, and I believe that includes the OL. In fact, I believe this is one of the most complete teams Auburn has had in 30 years. Gus has shown that he’s willing to fire and hire to create an amazing staff, putting together possibly the best staff we’ve ever seen at Auburn. A lot of wind is blown about him, and ultimately I agree. He’s the HC. But we either say goodbye to Gus or live with the fact that his only real head coaching experience started in 2013. I’d go even further and say he only started learning how to be a head coach in the last few years, probably starting with his hire of Muschamp. Marshall (like Manziel for aTm) gave Malzahn a dynamic player to build his entire offense around. This gave us two fun years, but they were band-aide years. Gus has done what Sumlin couldn’t in the wake of Marshall’s departure and put together a staff capable of competing for championships. Could we imagine for a second what would have been without Lindsey last year (yikes)? Or what could have been with the addition of Grimes?

      To further prove my point, how many times do we anecdotally say, “yeah but if he had on a crimson jersey, he’d be on the watchlist, all-sec, etc”? Want to know why? Coaching and consistency (and a little bit of hype). There is very little concern that Saban (with two new coordinators) will still bring the best out of his players. He knows how to hire/fire/place coaches. Some college players get seen *in spite of* terrible coaching, but this exception proves the rule. We need to spill more ink on this and less on the roller coaster ride of a few 20-year-olds. It’s like pretending the US President should fix the pothole in your county road.

      Yet here–like everywhere else–guys like you go on and on about things that don’t really matter, or things that are merely a result of something else going on, all under the guise that they’re saying something novel. I want to talk about the something else. I want to learn. I want the football IQ of the entire fanbase to be lifted. Some dad out there who quit football in 9th grade might have a kid who overhears his (seemingly random) intricate understanding of the game and fall in love with Auburn football. That kid might just demand more and better, influencing his friends, kids, etc. The huge media outlets have plenty of empty words about sports and people read them…everyone regurgitates the same information. TET can be different.

      It starts with me. And you.

      Best,
      Greyfox

      • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

        First off, we writers here are politely encouraged to keep our posts under 750 words. We also have editors who do their best, but sometimes things don’t make the final cut. That makes it hard to really go into what we want to say and a LOT gets lost in translation.

        Secondly, the reason I didn’t really address your comments to a full extent was that it was 6:50 in the morning and I was getting my breakfast in a gas station with two little boys in the car.

        • greyfox says:

          I’m listening whenever you have time. I’d appreciate an actual response instead of two excuses (“It’s not MY fault the article and response was empty. The kids! The admin! The editor!”).

          The latest Tiger Eye Review article is 2,772 words…

          Yours here is 1286, yet you manage to say almost nothing.

          My first comment was 829 words.

      • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

        Ok, with that said, let's talk some more.

        I have long associated Auburn's best lines with those that started early and struggled….maybe by starting earlier than they should. See the 2004 and 2010 lines. I may have mistakenly labeled the 2013 line as one of those, but as you pointed out, they were actually at their peak in 2014. In other words, they arrived a year ahead of schedule in 2013, but my point is valid. This unit started early and struggled (Washington state and LSU, just to start). Auburn's offense was at it's best with an upperclassman loaded line. That one just arrived slightly early. Or, one could say that Marshall and MAson may have covered for them. Coleman, Robinson, Kozan, Dismukes, and even the guys who filled in for them in 2014 such as Braden Smith were all NFL players.

        So, yes, experience or lack of isn't a reason for success or struggle, but it's a precursor.

        You put stock in Grimes. I put stock in recruiting. Maybe its a little of both. What we do know is, across the board, Auburn recruits better than it develops and prepares. Period. Is Grimes (and Horton for the RBs) just better than everyone else on the offensive staff at preparation and development? If so, they won't be here long, yet they've been at Auburn (in in Grimes case twice) for a pretty long time in a league where good coaches move up REAL QUICK. What's funny is that even within their own program, it isn't those two that get talked about. It's Kodi Burns that's the co-coordinator. It's Lindsey who moved into the OC after being an analyst on the 2013 staff that saw Horton and Grimes as position coaches. Is there someting to read into that? Yep. Either they aren't as good as we think or Malzahn plays favorite. Or both.

        It IS simplistic to say that because last year's line was all upperclassmen that this year's unit will struggle. But, there's data points me and you can read. The data points we cannot are what happens at practice, so it's speculation. We have to speculate on what we know. And what we know is 1) an all new line, regardless of talent, typically struggles. That's just been emphasized at Auburn. I think some of that is due to, as you talked about, consistency. I also think it's because we are all chasing the same team and Malzahn over thinks things in the summer to prepare for down the stretch 2) Malzahn moves pieces early in the year, which certainly doesn't help point 1.

        The saving grace is, as you have pointed out, having a better line coach and/or play calling. Half of that is solved, we think.

        BUT, as I pointed out, the data ALSO says that Malzhan's play calling at this stage of the year is……sporadic. Again, I think it's preparation for later in the year. I don't like it, neither does anyone else. But, when it works, it works. We just all think he should get to it faster. This spawns my comment about motivation for this first game.

        Auburn can lose this game and make it to the playoffs. I'm not saying I am ok with losing the game, but I see that Malzahn can tinker with this team now, but he can't tinker in two weeks.

        Did I miss anything?

        • greyfox says:

          Zach,

          Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I feel like we might actually be getting somewhere. I, too, believe we will start slow (this doesn’t always happen, btw). This frustrates me, but I think all Auburn fans are more frustrated with Gus’s inability to finish seasons well. He’s 1-4 in bowl games, with the one win coming from his worst season.

          Regarding recruiting vs coaching, I think that coaching is always more important. You even imply as much by acknowledging that we recruit better than we develop. And when it comes to the OL, this is where coaching is the MOST important. You listed some studs from the past 5 years, but they were all coached by Grimes when at their best. Kozan (and Slade) were just two big kids who looked like world beaters. The others are true talents, but my guess is that our OL recruits are about the same on a 2-year rolling average. This means that all those guys who went to the NFL were taught how to think about and perform the difficult task of blocking while knowing an entire offense. It’s the most mentally challenging position on the field after QB, which is why coaching is so important. It’s also really hard to get five 20-year-olds to all do the right thing at the same time. Recruiting is a big factor, it just gets way too much emphasis from writers.

          Regarding coaches “moving up” and titles, etc: this is beside the point. I really don’t understand why you go there. Promotion hardly has anything to do with excellence at the position level. Perhaps Burns isn’t good at the details for his position group but a good motivator (and recruiter!) and gets the big picture well? Perhaps Grimes loves the details and would make a terrible OC?

          I see line success as containing the same components you do: experience, talent, coaching. The nature of the OL is that until a unit has seen the field a few times, NO ONE really knows what they have. The higher degree of experience, talent, coaching will lead to better results. Look at 2014. We came out and scored 40+ in 5 of our first 7. We returned Dismukes, Slade, and Young (Kozan was hurt all season?). These are three solid players representing an accurate cross-section of the type of player we get at OL. The biggest factor to starting fast, then, was their experience with each other and with Grimes (aside from Marshall, who was the greatest factor). Again coaching and consistency. This year will likely start slow (we’ll see it at some point, maybe not UW), but the personnel is not to blame. Harrell, Horton, and Driscoll have more than enough talent and experience on their own. Tega shouldn’t be a question mark…he had plenty of experience last year that should have turned him into one of the most impressive LTs in the nation. That leaves Kim, who I’m definitely a bit nervous about. But…my point is that the biggest factor is getting these guys into Grimes’s mind/scheme/preparation and getting experience playing their roles within the offense. This year could easily be very similar to 2013 in that it’s Grimes’s first year with a talented group, the most important of whom (the LT) is a freak.

          I agree with the importance of the outcome of the UW game. Important but not paramount. The beginning of the year last year looked a bit like more of the same, but it wasn’t. Each year has been different, really.

          2013: slow start (all new staff, fresh-on-campus QB)
          2014: fast start (return line coach, QB, 3 OL)
          2015: ??? Never really did anything consistently on offense. No real arc. (return line coach, 5 OL; new qb, play caller)
          2016: more of ’15, with a hot middle against crappy competition (return 3 OL, play caller, QB; new line coach)
          2017: crawled out of the gate, then exploded game 3 (return 3 OL, line coach; new play caller, QB)

          Deficit each year:
          2013: defense (coaching and talent)
          2014: defense, Lashlee ruining Marshall
          2015: Lashlee, Lashlee, Lashlee, defense
          2016: Lashlee, Hand
          2017: Hand (I can’t emphasize this enough. Stidham got sacked 11 times against Clemson and less as the season went on bc Lindsey had to adjust to a line that couldn’t block; plus, Dunn’s move to C meant Tega–no Grimes influence–was benched for Golson, making the entire line a veteran unit with experience under an actual line coach).

          Of the 5 years, only 3 started slow and got better, while all ended poorly. Our worst years have more to do with a bad OC than a bad line coach, demonstrating that play calling and QB are the most important part of an offense (this is a slight aside, but just to clarify: I’ve always believed this; the line coach emphasis I’m making is the result of wanting to win championships, not 9 games). Ultimately, all of this falls on the HC’s shoulders. My hope for this year and years to come is that we have finally got a coach who knows what he’s supposed to do: hire and recruit. We should have a championship defense bc Malzahn gets this. We should have a championship offense bc Malzahn gets this (FINALLY!!!).

          I’d love your take (or anyone’s) on this thought:
          –We finally having a returning OC/QB combo (like 2014)
          –We have a very good new line coach with raw talent (like 2013)
          –We also have a defense (like 2017)

          I truly believe that all we were missing last year was a good line coach (just like all we were missing in 2013 and 14 was a defense…much bigger need, though). I don’t think I’m sunshine pumping; I think this year could be really special, and I’ve actually (unlike most “writers”) put a little meat on the bones of my theory.

          Best,
          Greyfox

          • Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

            I’m still trying to figure out how you disagree so much yet elaborate by agreeing almost completely. Either way, you are very knowledgeable, though I don’t think anything has been cleared up or brought anew to the table.

            However, I do appreciate your input. Smart football talk is better than dumb football talk.

  11. Derrick Roberts Derrick Roberts says:

    What concerns me the most isn’t whether or not Gus has done his homework or prepared in great detail for this game at all, it’s whether or not he’s spent that time wisely. I never question Malzahn’s work ethic, it’s whether or not that energy has been effectively focused on the most prudent aspects of the team and its opponent.

    In our season openers under Gus, it seems like we’ve dealt with issues that should have been obvious to the coaching staff long before the first snap ever took place. This is an annual trend that cannot be ignored. It doesn’t mean I do not hope it’s changed or that 2018 isn’t different, but that is my concern for this game against Washington.

  12. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I’m certainly not an offensive line guru, but the big problem the past couple of seasons was guys not knowing who to block. I saw the body language. Defensive lines would shift at the last minute, and we would have linemen or backs standing around, getting blown by. “That’s not the guy I was supposed to block!” That was the body language. Some of it was obviously communication. I’m not sure we even used line calls, last season. And then, if there is 280 pounds of defensive lineman roaring into the backfield, a lineman HAS to get in the way. You might not pancake him. You might not even remotely win the fight. But you HAVE to slow him down. Delay him. Make him work! It’s a thankless job. You might end up on your backside, whipped. But you made enough time for the QB to take a seven-step drop, and deliver a TD pass!

    • greyfox says:

      Thank you. Anecdotal evidence that proves the theory: Hand was terrible and it cost us dearly.

      I believe Grimes has said that he’s had to, “start from scratch” on the entire line.

    • Zach Taylor Zach Taylor says:

      I don’t watch much line play, but with Wanogho last season, he could not pick up stunts and twists. If a defender lined up in a 6,7, or 8 technique and pushed, he was fine. If a stunt or twist came off that defender, he could not pick it up.

      • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

        …..Tega didn’t know how. Look at him! He’s got an amazing wingspan. Should be able to be a long-time fixture on the left side, in the NFL. Last year, he just did not know how to recognize a wide split by an end rusher. It was not a lack of effort. It was a lack of recognition, and technique. If a lineman turns sideways against an SEC pass rusher, it’s over. Must, must, MUST keep those shoulders square, and dig in. You might have to give some ground to stay in control. You CANNOT be trying to chase an SEC defensive end, and grabbing him from behind. Won’t work.

  13. Tiger Tiger says:

    Well I enjoyed both the article and all of these comments. My simple take:

    – I feel pretty good about Jartavious Whitlow being the starting RB, especially since the recent good news out of fall camp. While I like Kam Martin, he’s a bit small. Also, Malzahn will NOT play a RB that fumbles, and Martin has struggled with this.

    – JB Grimes WILL have the best 5 OL players on the field. I’m a little surprised that Kaleb Kim won the job at center…but he’s been at Auburn for about 15 years now and should have learned the system. For a while I think the knock on Kaleb was that he wasn’t as physically strong as required. But 15 years in the gym have hopefully fixed this issue.

    – The DL and LB’s should be extremely fun to watch this year. However, I’m looking for Washington to limit our advantage by using lots of short, quick passes. I recall a few teams from last year that used this strategy against us, with some success.

    – Not one bit surprised that Nick Coe won the start at Buck. His work ethic and good attitude have NEVER been questioned, and I’ll take the hardest worker over the next guy, all day.

    – I really hope we don’t slide all over the Atlanta turf this year. If so, all bets are off.

    – War Eagle!

    • greyfox says:

      I agree with you about Whitlow. I think most people are hoping he totes the rock. Unlike most people, though, I think this matters way less than OL play.

      Kim’s freshman year (2015), he was behind Dampeer (Senior) and Golson (redshirt Soph). With C, it’s hard to work into the rotation, especially with a veteran or two in the way. In 2016, we brought in Hand, so Kim hasn’t had a whole lot of attention, consistency, or good line coaching (read my comments above regarding Hand). 2018 and Grimes is back. Kim was a 4-star, so he definitely has potential. His “backup” Brahms–injured and is healthy now–is pushing him for the starting spot. I wouldn’t be surprised if Brahms gets the start at some point early in the season if Kim’s strength isn’t there.

      With Coe, I think you’re absolutely right. Plus, word is that Moultry has been complaining of a nagging injury. I also think we’ll see a ton of shuffling around on the DL, per usual. TD will be on the field early and often, and Coe won’t always be at Buck. Such a fun group.

      War Eagle!!!

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