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Cross-training on the O-line

AUBURN – Jeff Grimes, Auburn’s offensive line coach, is getting close, but he says it’s not time yet to anoint five starters for the season-opener against Utah State.

Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes

Senior tackle Brandon Mosley, Grimes said after Tuesday night’s practice, has all but locked up a position. Not so for the other four positions. Things got more interesting when senior A.J. Greene, out since early in preseason practice, returned to practice.

“The more competition we have, the better off we are,” Grimes said. “Nobody is guaranteed a job. Brandon has done so well for a long time. Because of who he is, I think it’s going to be awfully hard for anybody to keep him out. There are enough guys at the other spots that I think there is still an element of some unknowns there.”

That includes, Grimes said, at center, where true freshman Reese Dismukes and sophomore Blake Burgess have been in a tight race since spring practice. Dismukes’ father reportedly told a Mobile radio station Tuesday that his son had been told he will start.

Grimes didn’t agree, though he acknowledged Burgess practiced Tuesday at guard.

“That would be news to me,” Grimes said. “Reese did go with the first group today. Blake worked with the second group at guard. I haven’t said anything like that to Reese. He is doing great. Blake is doing well, too.”

Grimes said he has come to the conclusion that some players are going to have to learn more than one position. That’s why Burgess worked at guard.

“Regardless of who ends up where, I have to cross-train some guys,” Grimes said. “That is one thing that has become a little more clear to me with some time, that I’m not going to have a full group of guys that are ready to play this year. I’m going to hae seven or eight, maybe nine.

“I have to have some guys that can play with more than one position. Blake is a guy that is really valuable. He’s smart enough to do that and has played some guard in the past. At this point, nothing has been officially declared and we are still working both those guys.”

For most of the preseason, the starting lineup has included Mosley and redshirt freshman Chad Slade at tackles, senior Jared Cooper and junior John Sullen at guards and Dismukes and Burgess bracketed at center.

But true freshmen Christian Westerman and Greg Robinson are still in the mix in a big way.

“Big-time push,” Grimes said. “They are both talented, obviously. They also have the mentality I’m looking for. Throw Reese in there, too. Those guys not only have ability but have the kind of toughness and mean streak that I’m looking for in guys that want to put somebody on the ground and play hard to the whistle. They still have a ways to know how to do it, but I can coach a guy like that.”


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