By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. – There’s not a position group on Auburn’s football team more ready and eager for this weekend’s Mercer game than the offensive line.
The unit is coming off a performance last Saturday at Clemson that wasn't very good. The players know it. They know it wasn’t up to their standard. But they also know that they are still a solid offensive line, and they want to go and prove that.
“We just have to go out there and make a statement,” senior center Austin Golson said. “We know that we’re a talented offensive line. We know that we can be really good. I think we are really good. We played the defending national champions, and they have a really good defense. But that’s not an excuse. We do have to get a lot better if we want to achieve our goals.”
Gus Malzahn and his coaching staff still have confidence that the offensive line – and the offense as a whole – will get things figured out. As of Tuesday, Malzahn indicated that there “probably won’t be changes” up front at this point in time.
“We believe in our players,” Malzahn said. “They were put in some tough situations at times. I have to do a better job. Our coaches have to do a better job of putting our players in better situations. But we believe in those guys. They are going to improve.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be competition during practice this week, but now it’s about how the current group responds to this adversity.
Golson has been in this spot before. So have Braden Smith and Darius James. All three played last year and while there were times when the offense looked unstoppable, there were other times when the unit struggled to move the ball, not unlike Saturday. The key will be first-year starters Prince Tega Wanogho and Mike Horton and how they respond.
“I just tell them to keep pushing because it’s eventually going to unfold and bust out, and we’re going to have some really good offensive execution,” Golson said.
“Like I’ve said before, Prince and Mike, they’re both young, but they’re two of the [more] talented guys we have on our team, and they care about football a lot. So I think they’re going to get with us older guys, get ready to roll and try to get better at practice this week.”
There will be one change on the coaching side for Auburn. Malzahn announced Tuesday that offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will move to the coaching box for Saturday’s game, and that offensive line coach Herb Hand will replace him on the sideline.
For Hand, it will be his first time coaching on the sideline at Auburn.
“I think it’s good,” Golson said. “I really don’t know what it’s going to be like because he’s never been on the sideline. But I think it will be good because he can make adjustments with us in person better than on the phone. [And] he thinks that he’ll be able to see better.”
It would have been easy for the offensive linemen to sulk or hang their heads after Saturday’s game at Clemson. They’re not. They’re using it as motivation to improve and make sure that type of performance never happens again.
Greg Ostendorf is a Staff Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @greg_ostendorf