Reese Dismukes is the only returning offensive player to start every game for Auburn in 2011. (photo, Vasha Hunt OANews)
The Auburn football player celebrated with his teammates on the field of the Georgia Dome as fireworks exploded and hundreds of tiny parachuted Chil-fil-A cow dolls came floating down from the ceiling. It was New Year's Eve and the Tigers had just defeated the Virginia Cavaliers in the Chik-fil-A Bowl 43-24.
It was a happy moment for center and first year starter Reese Dismukes as the celebration capped off his freshman year as an Auburn Tiger.
When Reese signed with Auburn in 2011 out of Spanish Fort High School, he did so knowing that All-SEC center and three year starter Ryan Pugh would need to be replaced. So he enrolled in Auburn in time for spring practice and went to work.
Although he came with great expectations as one of the most highly recruited centers in the country, he found himself in competition for the starting position with third year man Blake Burgess; who had been Pugh's backup during the National Championship season.
All spring and summer, it was a see-saw back and forth battle between the two, right up till the start of the season. Then on September 3rd, Reese Dismukes name and picture were flashed on the Jordan-Hare jumbotron as the starting center for the Auburn Tigers.
With that announcement, he became the first center in school history to start Auburn's season opener as a true freshman.
He started every game, accomplishing something very special along the way. He was the center piece of the Tigers offensive line, helping the Tigers rush for 2,373 yards which was the fourth best in the SEC. Auburn averaged more than 200 yards rushing in seven games, including 291 yards against Arkansas.
To play center as a true freshman in any league is tough - to do it in the South Eastern Conference is special.
Because it was special, at the end of the year he was named to the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team, the SEC All-Freshman Team and the CBS Sports Freshman All-America Team.
In addition, Reese was recently named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List; an honor that is awarded annually to the top center in college football.
Those awards have heightened expectations for his play for the upcoming season. He had started last year as a freshman but finished it as a veteran having had to go up against some of the best D-Lineman in the country.
As the center, he has to be a leader. He is the only player besides the quarterback to touch the ball every play. That fact alone makes his position the second most important on the offense. The center has to get players lined up, make a good snap exchange, protect his quarterback, and block for the runner.
For his part, Reese has said his goal for this year is for the Tiger line to be the best starting five in the country.
Grimes believes Dismukes is more than up to the challenge. He has said that Reese is a natural leader and as a seasoned SEC center, he now, "steps in the huddle with confidence... He's leaner, he's stronger, he's quicker, he's confident." And ...
He's ready to lead.