After allowing 25 tackles for loss over the course of three games, Auburn’s offensive line is going to stay the same for the time being.
Following Auburn’s season-opening win over Georgia Southern, a game in which the Tigers ran for a routine 351 yards, head coach Gus Malzahn responded to concerns about pass protection issues. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sacked three times and hurried 11 times in addition to the Eagles’ eight tackles for loss.
“I thought [the offensive line] did some good things,” Malzahn said. “We were able to run the football effectively. One of the pass protection issues where we got hit was more of a miscommunication than anything.”
For a season-opening win, things weren’t too bad. Auburn’s defense held Georgia Southern to just 78 total yards, with only eight of those yards coming from its passing attack.
The following week, things looked bad.
Auburn’s offensive line allowed 11 sacks and 14 tackles for loss with just four quarterback hurries. Stidham was forced to scramble and, although both Malzahn and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey admit he held onto the ball too long, went to the ground too many times to count.
Visible frustration ensued on the field and Auburn’s offensive line coach Herb Hand swapped spots with Lindsey to return to coaching duties on the field. Herb remained on the field for Auburn’s win over Mercer.
Malzahn maintained that there wouldn’t be any changes to the offensive line despite allowing 11 sacks. After more questions, Malzahn responded to the situation again by changing his position by saying “there probably won’t be changes.”
“We will see how practice goes,” he said. “We believe in our players. They were put in some tough situations at times… I’m not ready to sit here right now and say there will be changes.”
Over the course of three games this season, Auburn has rushed for a total of 535 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, Auburn ran for 779 yards and six touchdowns against arguably stronger opponents.
Auburn’s offensive line has experienced some shifting alongside the introduction of new players with the new season. Redshirt sophomore Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. slid into the starting left tackle position while former No. 2 left tackle Darius James moved to right tackle. In addition, redshirt sophomore and former No. 2 right guard Mike Horton moved to the starting left guard spot, with former starting left tackle Austin Golson starting at center.
Heading to Columbus, Missouri this weekend to play in their SEC opener against Missouri, Auburn faces a defense that has struggled as of late. Missouri has totaled eight sacks and 24 tackles for loss while going 1-2 to start the season.
James, who left during the first half in Auburn’s win over Mercer with a seemingly gruesome neck injury, is hopeful to return this weekend. Malzahn says that is James is absent, Golson will move to right tackle and graduate transfer Casey Dunn will take over at center.
“It is a new group working together beside each other,” Malzahn said. “[The offensive line’s performance against Georgia Southern] more than anything just confirmed that we have a chance to be really good up front.”