Chizik just wanted to take a few minutes to let them know what a great job they were doing.
It was well received.
“First of all, that’s a pretty big compliment,” said Auburn senior left tackle Lee Ziemba. “Coach Chizik, for those who don’t know, he doesn’t toss around compliments very often. For him to come into our meeting and steal five minutes and tell us how good of a job we’re doing meant the world to me and to the rest of the guys.”
It wasn’t anything they didn’t richly deserve, because as any coach will tell you, offensive production starts with the guys up front.
Auburn (8-0) leads the SEC in scoring offense at 38.6 points per game and in total offense with 486.8 yards per game.
And if there’s a statistic that an offensive line can really hang its hat on, it’s rushing.
Auburn leads the SEC in that category as well, rushing for 2,426 yards, an average of 303.2 yards per game.
Last week against LSU, Auburn rushed for a season-high 440 yards against a defense that was allowing 86 yards rushing per game.
“No question there’s satisfaction,” said offensive line coach Jeff Grimes. “Any time you’re able to move the ball effectively, you feel good about it as an offensive line. But there is something different about lining up and saying `Here we come and we’re going to keep on coming until you stop it.’ There’s something very enjoyable about that.”
It wasn’t always so enjoyable.
Following a 27-24 overtime victory over Clemson, Chizik called his team out for not playing physical enough.
While he did not cite the offensive line specifically, they took it personally.
“When your head coach makes a challenge, to a man, it’s something that we took with pride,” said center Ryan Pugh. “The week leading up to the South Carolina game was probably the most miserable week in our group because everyone was just ready to go out and play the next game.
“We were tired of having to hear that challenge every day, and the only thing we could do about it was go out and play good, play well and play physical”
Auburn rushed for 334 yards against the Gamecocks, and have been on a roll ever since.
The Tigers have rushed for 300 or more yards in four of their last five games.
“Since the South Carolina game, which was obviously a turning point for us, the guys have worked to get better each week, and that’s probably what I’ve been most pleased with,” Grimes said. “They haven’t gotten content. They’ve continued to challenge themselves and improve every week, which is something a lot of seniors don’t do.”
The guys who are toting the football for Auburn are certainly appreciative.
Quarterback Cam Newton continually praises the offensive line, as does freshman tailback Mike Dyer.
“They just get better and better, and your level is raised,” said Dyer, who rushed for 100 yards last week against LSU. “It goes up. Running behind those guys — it’s incredible what they can do. They wear people down. They make it easier for me and Cam and Onterio (McCalebb). It’s a good feeling that they want to do it. These guys get up every day wanting to move people out the way, to do a kick out. They have the want-to and they’re willing to do it.”
And, with no disrespect toward Chizik’s pep talk, the results are the reward for Auburn’s offensive line.
“We play the game because we love it,” Pugh said. “We love doing the dirty work. We like to get in there and block and be physical. That’s why we play the game. It’s something that makes it fun for us when you see guys have success like Cam and Dyer and McCalebb and all the receivers catching balls. That’s what excites us when we make plays, because we know our part in the whole deal.”
Charles Bennett covers Auburn University sports for The Star.