April 1, 2014
Offensive line coach J.B. Grimes says he likes what he sees from his veteran offensive line (Lauren Barnard photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - All-America left tackle Greg Robinson is gone, working toward the riches that will come when he is a high NFL draft pick in May. Back on the Auburn practice field, junior Pat Miller and sophomore Shon Coleman are competing to take his place.
After the seventh practice of the spring Tuesday, offensive line coach J.B. Grimes said the race is too close to call.
"Great battle," Grimes said. "Both of them are hooked up. Both of them are rooting for each other. I love the way they interact with each other. I think it's a great battle, and both of them are really good football players."
Miller started the first three games of last season at right tackle before sitting out a suspension for an issue that had been resolved in the summer. Avery Young claimed the starting job and still has it.
Four starters - sophomore guard Alex Kozan, senior center Reese Dismukes, senior guard Chad Slade and Young - return from last season's Southeastern Conference champions. Thirteen offensive linemen are on scholarship. It's a refreshing change for Grimes, who joined Gus Malzahn's staff just more than a year ago.
"I think it's going well," Grimes said. "The great thing you have when you have a lot of the same players and the same coaches is that you are talking in the same language. At this time last year, I was talking in a different language and they were hearing in a different language. It was utter chaos about half the time."
Last spring, Grimes spent most of this time trying to teach players to understand where to go, who to block and the technique they should use to do it. It's different now.
"A year ago, I was coaching how to get in a stance and how to take a first step," Grimes said. "What I'm coaching primarily now is the second step and a third step. We've made a lot of progress, because we've graduated to further down the field."
Redshirt freshman Deon Mix has been often praised as spring practice nears the halfway point. Grimes said junior college transfer center Xavier Dampeer, sophomore guard Will Allen and sophomore tackle Robert Leff have also taken major steps forward.
"I'm really pleased with the way Will Adams is coming on," Grimes said. "He's getting more reps. I'm pleased with Robert Leff. We really like Xavier Dampeer. We think he can be a very, very quality backup to Reese Dismukes and be ready to step in."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: