NCF Nation: Jeff Grimes
Moreover, one of the last players Auburn could afford to lose was sophomore center Reese Dismukes, who was a freshman All-American last season and the closest to a sure thing on Auburn's inexperienced offensive line.
As fate would have it, Auburn will be without Dismukes next Saturday when it faces Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game in Atlanta. Auburn coach Gene Chizik suspended Dismukes on Saturday following Dismukes' arrest early Saturday morning on a charge of public intoxication.
Chizik's statement didn't specify how long Dismukes would be suspended, but it will at least be for the opener. Auburn plays at Mississippi State the second week of the season.
That Chizik would suspend such a key player for such a key game over a relatively minor charge tells you all you need to know about where Chizik's tolerance level is for off-the-field nonsense. He's obviously sending a message to his team for the long term. After all, it hasn't been the rosiest of offseasons for the Tigers.
Props to Chizik for taking a strong stand. It takes guts to put your best offensive lineman on the bench for an opener as pivotal as this one. Then again, Clemson will be in the same boat. All-America receiver Sammy Watkins will miss the first two games following his drug-related arrest in May.
The loss of Dismukes presents a couple of different problems for Auburn, which was already lacking experience on its offensive line. Dismukes started all 13 games at center last season, and his backup, sophomore Tunde Fariyike, has never started in a game. That means Auburn could have as many as three or four offensive linemen making their first career starts against Clemson. Three freshmen are in the rotation -- redshirt freshman Greg Robinson at left tackle, true freshman Avery Young at right tackle and true freshman Alex Kozan at guard.
There's also a chance that Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes could do some shuffling. Senior guard John Sullen and Kozan could be possibilities at center, and if Sullen does makes the move to center, redshirt freshman Christian Westerman would then move up the depth chart at guard.
However it shakes out, Auburn is going to open the season with a handful of guys seeing their first meaningful action in the offensive line.
The other thing to consider is that sophomore Kiehl Frazier will be making his first start at quarterback, which is unnerving enough. Now, he's going to be taking snaps from somebody other than the starting center and the center he worked the most with this preseason.
That's never an ideal combination -- a first-time starter at quarterback and a new center.
Auburn used that tactic, and while it endured a back-and-forth shootout with the Mississippi State, the Tigers prevailed with a last-second goal-line stop that sent Jordan-Hare Stadium into a frenzy and Auburn to 2-0 on the season.
The Tigers know they are young and they know that they’ve squeaked by in the first two games, winning by a combined nine points, but they also know they’re winners, leading sophomore defensive end Nosa Eguae to say that this youth talk is overrated because the heart of this team is overwhelmingly strong. There are veteran attitudes inside these young bodies.
Eguae went as far to say that since his arrival in 2009, he hasn’t seen a team strive to improve like this one has -- and last season’s squad won it all in perfect fashion.
He saw it on the faces of his teammates after Saturday’s win. Players were second-guessing plays, criticizing routes they took to the ball and trying to figure out better ways to get open or block. That, beyond the wins, is what really impresses one of Auburn’s top leaders.
“I see guys that just want to get better,” said Eguae, who was third on the team with nine tackles and had two quarterback hurries Saturday. “I haven’t seen it in my two years here, guys that are all on the same page of getting better.”
Auburn opened the Mississippi State game with seven underclassmen starting on defense. That youth definitely showed with the 531 yards of offense and the 27 points the Tigers surrendered. But when it came to being more physical and having the endurance to last four quarters, the young cats did it.
“We played with a big chip on our shoulder,“ said sophomore safety Demetruce McNeal, who returned a Chris Relf pass for a touchdown Saturday. “We came out to get some things off our chests and show that we can still do it. Even after everybody we lost from last year, we’ve got heart. We’re going to bring everything we’ve got to the table -- every week. We’re just going to ball out and show everybody that we’re Auburn and we can still do it.”
But can this young group keep up the act of taking games down to the wire? It’s only inevitable that this approach catches up with it, no matter the energy it possesses, and Auburn coach Gene Chizik didn’t deny that.
He knows his team is playing with fire, but he also knows that no matter the average age of his players, he sees a group figuring out ways to win. It might not be the most favorable style of winning, but the Tigers will battle and that says a lot about the youth of this team.
“They are young, but they want to be good,” Chizik said.
“Are we a great football team right now? No. Not even close. But the identity of the team is starting to form week by week because they will fight. They will not look at the scoreboard, and that’s been one of the trademarks that we’ve really tried to instill in these guys that we are not looking for the scoreboard until it says 0:00, because everything else in-between does not matter.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Taking a stroll around the SEC to see what else is out there:
- South Carolina loosens its purse strings for assistant coaches and hands out some raises. Shane Beamer, promoted to special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator, gets the biggest bump.
- Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, has offers from several SEC schools, including Alabama, Georgia, LSU and South Carolina. He's also interested in Tennessee, but says he won't wait on the Vols to make an offer.
- New Auburn offensive line coach Jeff Grimes is searching for more bodies on the offensive line. The Tigers will open spring practice with 10 scholarship offensive linemen.
- Bobby Johnson's goal at Vanderbilt is simple, to keep getting better.
- Georgia offensive tackle Josh Davis will undergo his second shoulder surgery this offseason. Vance Davis, who's coming back from ACL surgery, expects to line up at right tackle in the fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some links to keep you informed about doings around the Big 12. Enjoy.
- Brent Zwerneman of the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle writes why Texas A&M should hope that running back Michael Goodson will find NFL success.
- Former Houston running back Terrance Ganaway will follow his old coach Art Briles to Baylor, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner reports. Ganaway rushed for 550 yards and scored six touchdowns while playing for the Cougars and Briles as a freshman in 2007.
- Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler writes that new Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young will be worth every penny -- and more -- of his $315,000 yearly contract with the Cowboys.
- Former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will appear in a variety of ESPN programming platforms during his visit to the Bristol, Conn., studios on Thursday, the Kansas City Star's Randy Covitz reports.
- Nebraska coaches will be selective in how they fill their final recruiting needs over the last two weeks of recruiting, Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World-Herald reports.
- Colorado has hired former Buffaloes player Brad Bedell as interim offensive line coach to replace Jeff Grimes, Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Camera reports. Bedell still is taking classes to finish his degree after serving the last two seasons as a technical intern with the program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Who says it's the offseason? There's always news aplenty in the Big 12.
- Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell is looking forward at this week's Senior Bowl of showing that he can stand apart from frequent comparisons with Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy, the Mobile Register's Tommy Hicks writes.
- Former Colorado assistant coach Jeff Grimes told the Boulder Camera's Kyle Ringo that he "cried like a baby" when he told Colorado coach Dan Hawkins and his former players that he was leaving the Buffaloes for a position on Gene Chizik's staff at Auburn.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News reports that former North Texas quarterback Giovanni Vizza is enrolling at Texas A&M with hopes of playing for the Aggies in 2010. Vizza set an NCAA freshman record with eight touchdown passes in a game against Navy in 2007.
- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Jimmy Burch provides an extensive look ahead at the Big 12 season for 2009.
- The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler compares the attitudes of Bob Stoops and Pete Carroll when losing top players early to the NFL.
- Five Oklahoma recruits have decided to graduate early from high school to start their college careers next month as incoming freshmen, Tulsa World beat writer John Hoover reports.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State