We turn our attention today to the Plains.
Coach: Jeff Grimes
Position: Offensive line
Experience: He's entering his third season on Auburn's staff. Grimes was the assistant head coach/running game coordinator/offensive line coach at Colorado for two seasons prior to coming to Auburn. He's also served stints as offensive line coach at BYU, Arizona State, Boise State and Hardin-Simmons. An 18-year coaching veteran who started his career at Riverside High School in Texas, Grimes has coached a pair of Auburn offensive lines that paved the way for the country's fifth-rated rushing team last season (284.8 yards per game) and the country's 13th-rated rushing team in 2009 (212 yards per game).
Of note: Grimes was wooed by Texas' Mack Brown during the offseason to coach the Longhorns' offensive line and interviewed for the job, but elected to stay at Auburn. He was rewarded with a raise and will make $400,000 this coming season. ... Grimes grew up in Texas and played offensive tackle collegiately at UTEP, earning four letters from 1987-90. ... The Tigers have set single-season school records for points scored and total offense each of the two years Grimes has coached the offensive line.
His challenge: Nobody knew just how good Auburn's offensive line would be this time a year ago. As it turned out, the Tigers were as good as anybody in the country up front and have a national championship trophy to show for it. Gone, though, are four senior starters who combined for 165 starts. The one returning starter Grimes does get back (Brandon Mosley) was a tight end before moving to tackle last season. So in other words, Grimes is going to earn every penny of that sweet raise he got in the offseason. He's been down this road before and has consistently produced solid offensive lines. In his first year at Colorado in 2007, two true freshmen started most of the games for the first time in CU history. That line matured as the season progressed and wound up allowing only four sacks in the final five games. It might be tough sledding for the Tigers up front to begin the 2011 season as they settle on the right combination, but Grimes has some talented personnel to work with. He just doesn't have a lot of experience -- only 15 combined starts among the projected starters. Senior A.J. Greene, who opened last season as the starter at right tackle before suffering a season-ending leg injury the third week, has moved to left tackle to replace Lee Ziemba. Mosley will stay at right tackle, and junior John Sullen is the likely starter at right guard, although Sullen has also played some at tackle. True freshmen Reese Dismukes and Christian Westerman will be worth watching. Dismukes enrolled early and went through spring practice and will battle for a starting job at center. Westerman didn't go through the spring, but could factor in at left guard or provide depth at tackle.