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Auburn's offensive linemen have earned their spurs

Nov. 5, 2013

Auburn’s offensive line carried the load in Saturday’s 35-17 win at Arkansas (Todd Van Emst photo)

By Phillip Marshall

AUBURN, Ala. – The burden is heavy, but Auburn’s offensive linemen take it on with growing pride and confidence.

As the Tigers have grown from afterthought to contender, rising to No. 7 nationally going into Saturday’s game at Tennessee, the offensive line has paved the way for the Southeastern Conference’s top running attack with an average of 306.2 yards per game, 69 yards per game better than second-place Missouri.

J.B. Grimes, the coach who preached toughness from the day he arrived, tells his players he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Coach Grimes says every week ‘We are going to put the spurs and whips on and ride y’all,’” junior center Reese Dismukes said Tuesday. “That’s really the mindset we’ve taken. We have that chip on our shoulder that we’re not going to be denied.”

And nobody likes it better than junior tailback Tre Mason, who leads the SEC in touchdowns with 13 and is third in rushing with 102.3 yards per game. He likes it so much that he’s promised to do something special for the big men up front.

“I told those guys I have to bake them a cake, do something nice for them,” Mason said. “Those guys don’t get as much love as they are supposed to. Without those guys, my success wouldn’t be possible.”

There are some details yet to be worked out. Dismukes doesn’t like chocolate. One cake might not do the job.

“That’s some pretty big guys,” Mason said. “We’ll have to figure something out. All the running backs are going to have to chip in on this.”

In Saturday’s 35-17 win at Arkansas, Mason ran repeatedly into a defense with nine players close to the line of scrimmage. It didn’t matter. He rushed 32 times for 169 yards and four touchdowns.

“We don’t really care what defense they put in front of us,” Mason said. “We have to make the play. Those guys are going to scheme some up and try to find a way to stop us. Our o-line is going to identify it and find a way to block them. I’m going to find a way to get through there and get to the second level.”

Six of Auburn’s offensive linemen started at least one game last season, when the Tigers averaged a paltry 148.4 yards per game on the ground.

“Last year we weren’t as technically sound as we are right now,” Dismukes said. “Coach J.B. Grimes has done a great job with all of us. The camaraderie is a lot better than it was. We are in a lot better position than we were. I think we are gelling a lot more and having a lot better grasp of the whole scheme of things. We are doing a really good job playing together right now.”

And Dismukes says none of it has come as a surprise to him.

“I knew this was how it should have been last year and how it is now,” Dismukes said. “I knew we had the potential to do this, and everyone else knew it, too. We’ve got a pretty good group of guys.”

Auburn’s running game has been at its best in the fourth quarter. Dismukes says that comes as no surprise either. It’s the embodiment of a motto Auburn players have taken on since winter workouts. It’s “Fists for Four” – fast, intense, strong and tough in the fourth quarter.

“The new coaching staff came in and said we’re going to be fast, intense and strong,” Dismukes said. “We were going to get back to playing Auburn football. When you start winning games, that brings more and more people to believe. Everybody has joined in and taken part, and everybody is getting better each week.”

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter.                

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