Oct. 29, 2013
Guard Chad Slade says Auburn offensive line still has ample room for improvement (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. - Before they played a game, before they even practiced, Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes had a message for his players. If they were going to play for Auburn, they would strive to play harder and tougher than anyone else.
Junior guard Chad Slade knew what that looked like. He'd seen it as freshman redshirt in 2010 when the Tigers won the national championship. And eight games into his junior season, he sees it again.
"Coach Grimes has brought a lot to us," Slade said Tuesday. "He's brought that we have to be physical in each game. We can't go out there and mess up and have mental mistakes. You have to go out there and play one snap at a time. You can't worry about the next play or the play you've just done. It's all about the next play.
"He's brought a lot of intensity to the offensive line. He's going to keep doing the same thing. Coach Grimes is a person that is never going to change. I believe he's making us 10 times better than we were."
With the offensive line paving the way, the Tigers are 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference in Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach. They lead the SEC with 315.4 yards per game, 91 yards per game ahead of second-place Missouri. They are tied for second in fewest sacks allowed, one behind Arkansas.
Saturday at 5 p.m., the No. 8 Tigers play Arkansas (3-5, 0-3) Saturday at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
"It feels good to know we are leading the league, but we have to keep improving and keep getting better," Slade said. "We can do so much more. We still have room for improvement and room to get more done. I believe we can continue to get better."
Auburn's offensive could get a boost Saturday with the return of sophomore right tackle Pat Miller, who started the first five games but was suspended for the past three games. Sophomore Avery Young has started the past three games.
"Playing next to both of them, they are both competitive guys," Slade said. "I know Pat wants to win that starting spot and I know Avery has to keep it. It's going to be good competition. I know both of them are going to get after it. It's going to be very intense between those two. When it comes down to the end of the day, Coach is going to pick the right person."
With four straight wins, the Tigers head into the home stretch with their destiny under their control. But Slade says they won't look ahead.
"We just have to keep going out there and playing our game," Slade said. "We can't let the rankings get to us. We can't get the big head about it. We are going to take each game one at a time, and whatever happens at the end of the season happens."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: