Oct. 14, 2013
Auburn's Reese Dismukes, left, and Alex Kozan provide protection (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — His team was already struggling last year, even before Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M arrived in town. Then, things got worse.
"I remember looking up, it was like the third quarter, and they had like 800 yards of offense. I was like, 'Oh my God, it's going to be a long night,'" said Auburn center Reese Dismukes.
Auburn finally stopped the flood, at least in the fourth quarter by allowing only seven points, but Texas A&M still beat Auburn 63-21, officially gaining 671 yards, on the way to a forgettable season for the Tigers.
But things are different now for Dismukes and Auburn. He's helped Auburn's offensive line lay down the blocks for the running game, which now leads the SEC in rushing, and has helped anchor a line that protects the quarterback, for no team in the SEC has allowed fewer sacks. The offensive line has helped the Tigers, in general, to a far better record than last year's mark as they head to a rematch at Texas A&M on Saturday. Both teams are 5-1 and nationally ranked.
Texas A&M leads the SEC in passing. Auburn leads in rushing.
The Tigers feel good about the latter.
"I think this team has a lot of confidence. We're 5-1. We're playing well, and we've won games different ways," Dismukes said. "We've blown people out. We've won at the last minute. We came back. We've been in all those situations, so I really don't think there will be much surprising stuff that can happen. I think that's a real big thing. We've been there, done that."
Auburn's starters didn't hang around long in last Saturday's 62-3 win over Western Carolina, but they were around long enough to help the Tigers set a school record with 712 yards of total offense, including 515 yards of rushing.
"We didn't give up any sacks, no real pressure at all," Dismukes said.
The offensive line, like the rest of the offense, has welcomed back former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, now as the head coach. But the offense is his.
Auburn used the same starting five in the offensive line — Dismukes, left tackle Greg Robinson, left guard Alex Kozan, right guard Chad Slade and right tackle Patrick Miller — in the first five games. Last Saturvay, Avery Young replaced Miller, who Malzahn said is dealing with an off-the-field issue, last Saturday.
"I think we've got five guys that are 100 percent bought in and committed to do the right thing all the time. We're really starting to jell here," Dismukes said. "We've been running the ball well and protecting the ball well, too."
Dismukes' season has gone a lot better from an individual prespective, too.
"It's nice being able to run and bend your arm and not have a cast on your foot," he said.
Much of the attention has centered around Auburn's new quarterbacks - first Nick Marshall and then Jeremy Johnson. But it is the running game that has been one of the most consistent features.
"I think as far as being a great offensive line, you've got to be able to run the ball," Dismukes said. "As a pride issue, it feels good."
Dismukes said Malzahn's offensive style lends itself to big numbers.
"Last year, you kind of loaded yourself up, big formations," he said. "You kind of knew what you're going to get. With this offense, you've got different stuff. Coming off each week, we've got a lot of answers for really anything the defense gives us. If you load the blocks, we're going to throw on you, so we've got a lot of answers for everything. That's just a plus."
Dismukes and the offensive line have been tolling away without the headlines of a Marshall or Johnson or Tre Mason or Cameron Artis-Payne or Corey Grant. Dismukes says the offensive lineman who has the most knockdowns may get a plaque from offensive line coach J.B. Grimes.
Dismukes leads the way with something more than 60 knockdowns.
Grimes keeps count.
"He's nice. He's a funny guy. There's never a dull moment," Dismukes said. "He's an old-school guy. I like that."
Video: Reese Dismukes talks Auburn football...
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine