Probably the biggest question mark about this Auburn Tiger football team heading into the 2018 season is the offensive line. The Tigers lost four starters off last year’s squad and brought in a new (well old) offensive line coach in JB Grimes this offseason. Yesterday, the media had a chance to speak with the assistant coaches and during that time Grimes listed who would start for the Tigers if they had to play today:
- Left Tackle: #76 Prince Tega Wanogho | 6’7” | 307 lbs | rJR
- Left Guard: #77 Marquel Harrell | 6’3” | 307 lbs | rJR
- Center: #54 Kaleb Kim | 6’4” | 300 lbs | rJR
- Right Guard: #64 Mike Horton | 6’4” | 324 lbs | rJR
- Right Tackle: #71 Jack Driscoll | 6’5” | 300 lbs | rJR
The first thing that jumps out is this is a veteran group. All five players are four year guys who spent their first year on campus as a redshirt. Three are former signees of Grimes (Harrell, Kim, Horton) while Wanogho was apart of that same class as a defensive lineman.
Secondly, while this group doesn’t have as many starts to their names as last year’s starting five, all but Kim have seen meaningful action in their career. Wanogho, Harrell and Horton all started in at least two SEC games last season for Auburn. Driscoll has over 20 starts to his name, including going against some SEC competition himself while at UMass. So while technically Auburn is breaking in four new starters, this isn’t as junior a group as you would expect having to replace that many seniors. I would also imagine the fact that at least four of these five have played together either in the 2nd team or at different moments on the first team in 2017, they should have good chemistry already.
Finally, while it’s probably disappointing for that young 2017 class that they haven’t been able to crack the rotation just yet, spending another year working with Ryan Russell probably isn’t a bad thing for a redshirt freshman in the trenches. Grimes even pointed out that while Austin Troxell has been outstanding in both the spring and fall, he does need to get stronger to consistently displace SEC calibre defensive lineman. Calvin Ashley, on the other hand, apparently still needs to drop a little more weight while also getting a bit tougher mentally and physically. Nick Brahms is still battling back from his spring injury but is expected back soon. Grimes did say that Brahms would get a chance to challenge for the starting job but considering we are just over two weeks from kickoff, I think that’s unlikely. Those three are foundational pieces to Auburn’s offensive line of the future and I expect we at least see one used as Auburn’s 6th offensive lineman in unbalanced sets this season.
So while there could still be some changes before kickoff, it appears Auburn has about settled on a starting offensive line heading into the 2018 campaign. After watching some pretty awful performances out the gate the last two seasons under Herb Hand, it’s exciting to see things coming together a bit earlier this time around. Hopefully, that will lead to Auburn looking more prepared when things kickoff in fifteen days.