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naming OL starters after 1st scrimmage

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Auburn hopes to name starters on offensive line after 1st scrimmage

Updated Aug 5, 7:59 PM; Posted Aug 5, 7:59 PM

Calvin Ashley is working at right guard early in fall camp and competing for the starting job. (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)

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By Tom Green

tgreen@al.com

With the season opener against Washington less than four weeks away and multiple starting jobs up for grabs, Gus Malzahn appears intent on fast-tracking a target date for naming a starting offensive line.

The Tigers have questions at center, right guard and right tackle early in fall camp, with multiple players repping at each position, but Malzahn would like to have everything sorted out as soon as this week.

"We're hoping that we can do it sooner rather than later," Malzahn said Sunday following the completion of Auburn's third fall practice. "Our goal is by the end of the first scrimmage, but I can't guarantee that will happen. That's what we've told our players."

That tightens the timeline that offensive line coach J.B. Grimes hoped for in the spring, when he was aiming to name a starting five between the middle and end of fall camp.

Auburn will have two more practices -- on Monday and Tuesday -- before an off-day Wednesday leading into the team's first fall scrimmage on Thursday. That sixth practice of camp could prove decisive in establishing a starting five along the offensive line.

The left side of the line is essentially set, with Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. at left tackle and Marquel Harrell at left guard. The other three spots remain hotly contested, and offensive line coach J.B. Grimes has done some mixing and matching through the first three days to try to accelerate the competition and let the cream rise to the top.

The Tigers have also spent more time in 11-on-11 periods in practice to help the coaches better evaluate those position battles and get players ample reps. During Sunday's session, Malzahn said the team spent about 40 minutes doing 11-on-11 drills, with three separate groups rotating in and out on each side of the ball.

"They're competing," Malzahn said. "There's good competition, though, I will say that. There's good competition; we just got some guys that are a little inexperienced that need experience."

Mike Horton, who entered camp as Auburn's projected starter at right guard, has split time at center so far. He mostly repped at guard on Friday, worked exclusively at center on Saturday and moved back to guard on Sunday, with Malzahn saying he expected the redshirt junior to be back at center for Monday's practice.

Horton has been rotating at center with Kaleb Kim, while redshirt freshman Nick Brahms has remained "somewhat limited" due to his recovery from a broken leg he sustained in late March.

"Kaleb's fighting for the starting position," Malzahn said. "Kaleb's been here for a while and he knows the offense; he understands everything. He's competing for the starting spot and I think he's done some good things."

With Horton splitting time between center and right guard, Auburn has moved redshirt freshman Calvin Ashley over from right tackle to right guard, where he is vying for the starting job and competing with fellow redshirt freshman Tashawn Manning.

Ashley, who spent the entire spring competing for the starting job at right tackle, has focused solely on playing right guard through the first three days of camp.

"As of right now we're working him at guard and trying to get him comfortable," Malzahn said. "That's his first three days really to do it and I think he's done some good things. But like I said earlier, he does have ability to play tackle, but right now we're pretty committed to him playing guard. I think for the first three days -- that's a different position. It's different inside than out and I think he's progressing. That's our plan for right now."

That leaves redshirt freshman Austin Troxell and UMass grad transfer Jack Driscoll competing for the starting job at right tackle. Troxell was seen working with the first-team offensive line on the opening day of camp, while Driscoll -- who enrolled this summer -- acclimated himself to his first official practice at Auburn.

"From the first day Jack got here, he was just fitting in really well," Harrell said. "He's a great person off the field. Like I said, just continue to work together in fall camp, we'll just fix it.... I feel like he's doing OK, some things we've got to get better on. But that's just with everybody. That's what fall camp's for."

Now it becomes crunch time for the offensive linemen and the coaching staff, especially if the Tigers hope to give the starting five ample time to jell ahead of the season opener on Sept. 1. It's a timeline that Malzahn admits is "fast-paced," but one he believes should benefit the team in the long run.

"When you're 27 days away you want to put the pieces of the puzzle as sooner rather than later," Malzahn said. "It's kind of one of those things, it's good the competition, but the quicker that we can get them in place the better."

Tom Green is an Auburn beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @Tomas_Verde.

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Not sure how many on this board have any real practice insight or connections but what's up with Kaleb Kim?  Is it physical.... mental?  He not able to call out assignments properly, or can he just not handle snapping and then blocking?

Seems disappointing that he hasn't locked down Center by now....

Edited by AUsince72
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45 minutes ago, AUsince72 said:

Not sure how many on this board have any real practice insight or connections but what's up with Kaleb Kim?  Is it physical.... mental?  He not able to call out assignments properly, or can he just not handle snapping and then blocking?

Seems disappointing that he hasn't locked down Center by now....

Not sure but hopefully that's also a comment on the quality of the other guys. That's not sunshine pumping. That's a sunshine deluge. I know.

But for real, if you break it down, it's not necessarily an ugly picture. And this is where I go all long-winded, not in response to your comments, but just kind of out loud to nobody in particular:

-Mike Horton has to start somewhere, and it's going to be on the interior. With a whopping 7 starts, he's one of our most experienced guys. But he's also one of the most talented. I'm not qualified to break down OLs (or any other position, really) on film, but I've consistently heard that Horton is one of our best. 

-Horton has been on the SEC Academic Honor Roll two out of the 3 years he's been here, including last year. Book smarts don't necessarily translate to football, but you do need your center to be one of the sharpest decision makers on the field, probably right after QB. 

-Harrell also has to start somewhere on the interior. He started the last 5 games of last season and it's probably between him and Horton as to who our best returning guys are.

-Calvin Ashley is one of the most highly recruited and naturally talented OLs we've seen at Auburn in quite some time. Doesn't mean he's better than Jack Driscoll with his 20 FBS starts or Prince Tega with his freak athleticism and handful of starts at LT, but it very well could mean we have to force him onto the field somehow. 

If Kim is the odd man out between himself, Horton, Harrell and Ashley, I don't know if that's a terrible thing. He might be doing an adequate job and just got beaten out by more talented dudes. 

 

Edited by McLoofus
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40 minutes ago, aubiefifty said:

Troxell was seen working with the first-team offensive line

After all the talk about Driscoll if Trox can win the job at RT it would be huge if he is really good.. As far Ashley moving to guard I agree with Loof if he is one of the best five he needs to be on the field. Everyone had Martez Ivey pegged as a tackle but he was playing guard at UF last time I saw him. But I'm still disappointed Kim can't win the center job by now. Like Gus said the sooner the better if they can get the starters in place.

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11 minutes ago, kd4au said:

After all the talk about Driscoll if Trox can win the job at RT it would be huge if he is really good.. As far Ashley moving to guard I agree with Loof if he is one of the best five he needs to be on the field. Everyone had Martez Ivey pegged as a tackle but he was playing guard at UF last time I saw him. But I'm still disappointed Kim can't win the center job by now. Like Gus said the sooner the better if they can get the starters in place.

Didn't know that about Ivey! Well there ya go. 

1 minute ago, boomstick said:

IMO it’s already been decided. I think this is the starting 5 OL  

Tega/Harrell/Horton/Ashley/Driscoll

Agreed. And it seems Gus is adamant about locking it in early and repping the hell out of these guys together *now*. If accurate, another fan prayer answered. 

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32 minutes ago, boomstick said:

IMO it’s already been decided. I think this is the starting 5 OL  

Tega/Harrell/Horton/Ashley/Driscoll

I think you may be correct. 

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I have a good feeling about this line. I hope they come ready to play game 1

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1 hour ago, McLoofus said:

Not sure but hopefully that's also a comment on the quality of the other guys. That's not sunshine pumping. That's a sunshine deluge. I know.

But for real, if you break it down, it's not necessarily an ugly picture. And this is where I go all long-winded, not in response to your comments, but just kind of out loud to nobody in particular:

-Mike Horton has to start somewhere, and it's going to be on the interior. With a whopping 7 starts, he's one of our most experienced guys. But he's also one of the most talented. I'm not qualified to break down OLs (or any other position, really) on film, but I've consistently heard that Horton is one of our best. 

-Horton has been on the SEC Academic Honor Roll two out of the 3 years he's been here, including last year. Book smarts don't necessarily translate to football, but you do need your center to be one of the sharpest decision makers on the field, probably right after QB. 

-Harrell also has to start somewhere on the interior. He started the last 5 games of last season and it's probably between him and Horton as to who our best returning guys are.

-Calvin Ashley is one of the most highly recruited and naturally talented OLs we've seen at Auburn in quite some time. Doesn't mean he's better than Jack Driscoll with his 20 FBS starts or Prince Tega with his freak athleticism and handful of starts at LT, but it very well could mean we have to force him onto the field somehow. 

If Kim is the odd man out between himself, Horton, Harrell and Ashley, I don't know if that's a terrible thing. He might be doing an adequate job and just got beaten out by more talented dudes. 

 

That actually makes me feel better ?

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I wouldn't count out Troxell at RT. I know that Driscoll is good and has a lot of experience but we all were sure Ashley was a stud and it appears that Troxell beat him out this spring. Many assumed it was because Ashley was not that good but it could be that Troxell was better than most expected. What this means Troxell or Driscoll will give us depth at tackle if we have an injury and Horton or Kim give us depth in the interior assuming that Ashley is a starter at guard.

I tend to agree with Prince, Harrel, Horton, Ashley, Driscoll but by end of week we could have some surprises.

Other possibilities.

Prince, Harrel, Horton, Ashley, Troxell

Prince, Harrel, Kim, Horton, Troxell or Driscoll

 

 

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This threads actually making the OL sound like a potential strength.  OMG what are we doing?!?!?!

?

Edited by AUsince72
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3 minutes ago, AUsince72 said:

This threads actually making the OL sound like a potential strength.  OMG what are we doing?!?!?!

?

Agreed.  I think the talent is there.  It is just finding the best 5 that gel together and finding them quickly to give them time to gel

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I know we have had a OL coaching change, but for the last couple of years the OL that starts the year, only last 2 or 3 games before it is changed. Hopefully not this year.

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3 hours ago, aubiefifty said:

With the season opener against Washington less than four weeks away and multiple starting jobs up for grabs, Gus Malzahn appears intent on fast-tracking a target date for naming a starting offensive line.

 The Tigers have questions at center, right guard and right tackle early in fall camp, with multiple players repping at each position, but Malzahn would like to have everything sorted out as soon as this week.

 "We're hoping that we can do it sooner rather than later," Malzahn said Sunday following the completion of Auburn's third fall practice. "Our goal is by the end of the first scrimmage, but I can't guarantee that will happen. That's what we've told our players."

 

This may happen soon, but I will be shocked if it does. Gustavo always intends to announce decisions, early, but rarely does. JG has talent to work with, hopefully he can build good chemistry by the UW game. 

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3 hours ago, AUsince72 said:

Not sure how many on this board have any real practice insight or connections but what's up with Kaleb Kim?  Is it physical.... mental?  He not able to call out assignments properly, or can he just not handle snapping and then blocking?

Seems disappointing that he hasn't locked down Center by now....

Overrated coming out of high school.  Plus not "naturally" strong.  At Center if you have a nose up tackle on you, you have to be able to physically take he first punch with leverage then be able to move your feet without losing leverage and turn the DT/NT.   

I don't think Kim has been able to do that on a consistent basis.   

This is what I have observed not something I have heard.  

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I wonder if Troxell is taking 1st team snaps more due to Driscoll still learning the plays? Someone correct me but Driscoll didn’t got through spring drills so this is all new to him.  I have a feeling that he and Brahm could break through on this line after a couple weeks.  I personally think with Grimes and this talent things will be better than most predict.  If I’m Prince Tenga I’m pumped at the opportunity to be the next Coleman/Robinson at LT

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If they decide by Thursday it was already decided, they will have barely practiced with pads on at that point.

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1 hour ago, corchjay said:

Overrated coming out of high school.  Plus not "naturally" strong.  At Center if you have a nose up tackle on you, you have to be able to physically take he first punch with leverage then be able to move your feet without losing leverage and turn the DT/NT.   

I don't think Kim has been able to do that on a consistent basis.   

This is what I have observed not something I have heard.  

What about Ashley what has prevented him from being what was predicted for him.  Is he a viable option at guard or are they just trying that because they don't think he will ever be a tackle. I am hoping you will say it took a while but a light has finally come on as we will need him this year and in the future whether a guard or a tackle.

Edited by AuburnNTexas

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3 minutes ago, AuburnNTexas said:

What about Ashley what has prevented him from being what was predicted for him. 

He has been playing very soft

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4 hours ago, McLoofus said:

Didn't know that about Ivey! Well there ya go. 

Agreed. And it seems Gus is adamant about locking it in early and repping the hell out of these guys together *now*. If accurate, another fan prayer answered. 

Yep moved him there mid season I believe doing much better than at tackle....Happens sometimes may help him get to NFL

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It seems like somebody whiffed on evaluating O linemen at some point. Has any of those 5 O linemen we signed that one year started or even contributed very much at all? I mean where did we go wrong?

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JMHO but I bet with the return of JB we see a nasty, 2013/2014 style offensive line. If we can pass protect as well as we should be able to run, then this year will see a huge offensive output. With a defense to go with it, we're going to be hard to beat. Would love to drop 40+ on the turds without losing.

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I’ve heard mixed reviews of Ashley, particularly in pass protection. From what I can tell he never quite grasped the old saying “pass blocking isn’t passive,” but I’ve also heard he’s a beast in run blocking. If that’s true, playing inside should mitigate his deficient area and emphasize his strength. Fingers crossed. Horton’s grasp of the Center position seems like the key. If he’s not your best Center, we’re probably better off with Horton at RG and Ashley on the bench, even if he’s one of our five best. 

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