By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — It's an off week for Auburn, but the defensive line was busy winning praise on the SEC teleconference Wednesday.
Mississippi State's Dan Mullen, who lost to the Tigers 38-14 last Saturday, said Auburn has "as talented a D-line as you're going to see anywhere in the country."
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, who helped recruit some of those players when he was Auburn's defensive coordinator, said "the defensive line has been dominating. They've got a bunch of good players up front."
Mullen said Auburn is "a complete football team." And Muschamp said he was happy to see the players embrace new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is happy about that, too.
"We knew we had the potential to be pretty good on defense," Malzahn said. "Kevin Steele coming in, and the defensive staff really gelled, and guys are playing extremely hard for them.
"It's really great to have a defense that has done what it has done so far."
That defense helped Auburn to a 35-0 halftime lead at Mississippi State, and scored a touchdown of its own when Carl Lawson caused a fumble and defensive line buddy Montravius Adams picked it up and scored.
The offensive line has more than helped, too. It was honored Wednesday when it made the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, which honors college football's top offensive line. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said there's a lot to like about the offense at midseason.
But now it's time to rest. Malzahn said he's happy the open week has come at exactly the halfway point of the season.
"It's been a really physical first six weeks. Our goal is to rest up some of our starters, develop some depth and get ready for the stretch run in the second half of the season," he said.
Auburn has suffered some injuries along the way, including starting tailback Kerryon Johnson, who lasted only three carries before hurting an ankle last Saturday. Malzahn said he's "hoping we'll get him back" in time to play in Auburn's next game when Arkansas visits Oct. 22.
"We'll probably know more when we get to next week. We're just trying to be smart with him and get him as much treatment as we can this week," Malzahn said.
Kamryn Pettway more than picked up the carries against Mississippi State. He rushed 39 times for 169 yards. This week, though, Malzahn said he'll look for depth at the position, and that'll give receiver-turned-running back Stanton Truitt as well as Kameron Martin some opportunities.
"This week is a critical week for those two guys. They're getting the majority of the reps," Malzahn said. "Stanton has a lot of natural ability at running back. He's got some big-play ability, as does Kameron Martin. He's very quick. It's good to get him some carries before the second half of the season. I think both of those guys are in a good spot."
• Malzahn said "we played our best game Saturday" against Mississippi State.
This week, he said, "we'll look at Arkansas a little bit, but, really, it's more about healing up."
• Malzahn said backup quarterback John Franklin III continues to get "our No. 2 reps."
"Really, that's the thing that probably matters the most. He's coming along and you can see him improving."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine