July 3, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN – J.B. Grimes is an old-school, 30-plus-year offensive line coach in Gus Malzahn’s high-powered offense. How can such a coach and offense co-exist?
Grimes, the offensive line coach, joined Malzahn at Auburn in December after they spent last season at Arkansas State. It was there were Grimes came to appreciate the core of Malzahn’s plan.
"There’s this misconception that we’re just going to spread it out and throw it all over the place. Yes, we’re going to throw the football. But when push comes to shove, we want to be able to hit you in the mouth with the running game," Grimes said. "I always tell people: football is a tough game played by tough people. You can’t get away from the fact in the Southeastern Conference that you must run the football and you must stop the run. We have that in our offensive philosophy."
Grimes knows the Southeastern Conference and football in the South in general. He’s coached in a variety of offenses at Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kansas, Virginia Tech and East Carolina, among others.
He’s seen it all, and now, despite all of Malzahn’s offensive movement before the snap, he says Auburn’s play calls are easy for his offensive line to understand.
"The simpler the better," Grimes said.
Grimes has been around long enough to know blocking doesn’t have to be complicated. "The power game is the power game, the counter play is the counter play, the inside zone is the inside zone, the outside zone is the outside zone. What I think was probably the biggest difference between last year and this year – and I wasn’t here – is the verbiage. That’s the biggest change for a college football player going from one offensive coordinator to another offensive coordinator. How do you call things?
"I’ve been in those offenses where there’s been a tremendous amount of verbiage. Young men have to filter all of that, and then take it to the line of scrimmage and line up and do it. That’s the hard part. It’s not the idea of blocking a certain play because there’s only so many ways to run the inside zone, the counter and all of those kinds of things. It’s mainly the processing of the verbiage. We don’t have a lot of verbiage in our offense, which is a cool thing to do when you’re dealing with college football players."
Grimes said he doesn’t think it’ll be long transition for Auburn’s offensive line to pick up Malzahn’s offense. Some of the players – such as Reese Dismukes and Chad Slade – played in it just two years ago.
Grimes has been down this transition road before.
"I’ve been the guy going out, and I’ve been the guy coming in," he said. "When you’ve been in the business as long as I have, you’re able to put those hats on. The simpler you can keep it as an offensive line coach, the better off you are. I’ve been around some places where we wanted a tremendous amount of line calls. That’s not the case with me. I want to keep this as simple as I can. The simpler they are, the more efficient football player you can put on the field."
Not even Malzahn’s love for having his quarterback can change that.
"If he’s under center or back there 12 yards deep, that line of scrimmage doesn’t change. Those guys on the other side? They don’t change because you’re in the shotgun. They know you’ve got to run the football," Grimes said.
Ah, running the football, just what guys such as Grimes likes. Malzahn, too. He’s had nine 1,000-yard rushers in the last seven years.
"We had a 1,000-yard rusher a year ago at Arkansas State, and it was young man who did not go through spring practice," Grimes said. "If you can get the right runner back there, we’ll get those guys in front of him blocking the five guys they’re assigned to block. We’ll get them in front of somebody."
Charles Goldberg writes for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: