Sept. 26, 2013
Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes says players are learning to be tough (Todd Van Emst photo)
AUBURN, Ala. - J.B. Grimes watched his offensive linemen open big holes in LSU's vaunted defensive line Saturday, and he knew they were starting to understand the lessons he's taught since last spring.
"They are starting to get it from a detail standpoint," Grimes, Auburn's first-year offensive line coach, said Wednesday. "They are starting to understand that you sweat the small stuff. When you sweat the small stuff, then the big stuff will happen for you."
Getting physical against Rodney Garner's defensive line in practice, Grimes said, is starting to pay dividends on Saturdays.
"Being able to work against Rodney every day has really helped our physicality," Grimes said. "It may just be a hookup drill, but you are getting good, live work. They are starting to buy into that type of work and to understand the need for it.
"You don't just talk about being tough. You don't just act like you're tough. You have to live tough."
Despite gaining 333 yards in the second half and 437 yards in the game, Auburn fell 35-21 at LSU after winning its first three games. But Grimes said he saw signs of good days to come.
Junior center Reese Dismukes continued his dominating ways, but the biggest step forward as on the inside. Junior right guard Chad Slade and redshirt freshman left guard Alex Kozan, Grimes said, played better than in any other game this season.
"Obviously, Reese Dismukes is really playing well," Grimes said. "He's a great player. The guys who have taken real steps forward are our two guards. Chad Slade, up until last Saturday, has had average performances. Saturday, he played well. He played well enough to win. So did Kozan. When those two guys start playing better, we're going to be OK."
Auburn players claimed no moral victory after fighting back hard from a 21-0 deficit, but they left believing they can meet the difficult challenges to come.
"I think they felt disappointed that they didn't win," Grimes said. "When you are disappointed you didn't win, the flip side is you thought you should have won the game. When it doesn't happen, you realize `I've got to get better, but I went out against some pretty good players and held my own. I can get better.'"
In the second half at LSU, the Tigers ran 48 plays. They had touchdown drives of 50, 94 and 88 yards. They drove from their 31 to the LSU 4 as time ran short, only to be stopped by an illegal motion penalty. LSU's defense was clearly exhausted.
"We needed that game to last about six more minutes," Grimes said. "I told our guys we need to get to the fourth quarter and then (strength and conditioning coach) Ryan Russell and his staff and the work they did will take over. They are starting to see that. They are starting to see what we do in our strength and conditioning area is starting to manifest itself."
With an open date Saturday, the Tigers practiced in shorts and shoulder pads Wednesday. They'll back on the practice field today as they prepare for their Oct. 5 game against No. 21 Ole Miss.
"They can really run on defense," Grimes said. "They have a good football team, and they are playing with tremendous confidence."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: