AUBURN, Ala. – It didn’t take Auburn coach Gus Malzahn long to replace Herb Hand as offensive line coach. He went out and hired Hand’s predecessor.
A day after news broke that Hand was leaving to become line coach and co-offensive coordinator for Texas, Auburn announced that it had hired J.B. Grimes away from Connecticut; that means Grimes both preceded and succeeded Hand.
Grimes, who was at Auburn from 2013-15, coached the likes of Greg Robinson, the second overall pick in the NFL draft, and Reese Dismukes, a Rimington Award winner, in his first stint with the Tigers. Grimes coached at Cincinnati in 2016, then went to UConn in 2017; with the Huskies, he was reunited with former Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who was hired as the Huskies’ offensive coordinator following the 2016 season.
Despite having four senior starters, Auburn’s offensive line had an inconsistent 2017 season. While Auburn ran the ball effectively when Kerryon Johnson was healthy, the Tigers surrendered 36 sacks, second-most in the SEC.
Though the Auburn fan base appears to be split on its opinion of the hire – Grimes is not known as a good recruiter – many close to the program believe Grimes’ coaching will improve the line. Former Auburn defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker went against Grimes’ players every day in practice, and he said Grimes is an upgrade.
“I think it’s an outstanding hire,” Whitaker said. “He’s going to be a father figure, he’s going to be a teacher, he’s going to be a motivator, he’s going to be a guy that is going to challenge guys.”
Whitaker talked about seeing Grimes coach his linemen about different ways to adapt to defensive changes. Lack of adaptation is something Auburn fans have been vocal about.
“You know, this is something that I don’t think a lot of my teammates realized, but we weren’t really going up against Greg (Robinson) and Shon (Coleman in practice),” Whitaker said. “You were going up against J.B.”
Grimes, 62, has been a college assistant for more than three decades. He also has been a line coach at Mississippi State, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M, among other stops.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to get back to the Plains,” Grimes said in a statement from the school. “I’ve always loved Auburn and have always loved the people at Auburn. They are my type of people. Auburn people love the game of football and know what it takes to win. … I look forward to getting to work and doing my part to help Auburn win football games.”
(You can follow Zac Blackerby on Twitter @Zblackerby)
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