AUBURN (AP) _ Lee Ziemba said Auburn’s offensive linemen have decided to bring the swagger back.
It would be a welcome change for the 13th-ranked Tigers and a front line that has mostly received attention for quite a few holding and false start penalties this season. And it starts Saturday at No. 19 Vanderbilt, according to Ziemba.
“We decided that this week we’re going to play with a new confidence level,” Auburn’s left tackle said. “We’re going to play with a different swagger. We’re going to get off the ball and we’re going to block some folks. That’s what we’re going to do this week. That’s what we’re going to do this season.”
A line that returned four starters has struggled to adjust to Auburn’s new spread formations and shotgun snaps that require lining up in a different stance. It hasn’t opened many holes for tailback Ben Tate the past two games.
Against Tennessee, Auburn’s line was penalized for holding twice and for false starts three times — including twice on the offense’s lone touchdown drive. The line was far worse in the team’s first road game, getting flagged 10 times at Mississippi State.
“It’s just lack of focus,” coach Tommy Tuberville said. “That happens. It’s always a concern. And it’s happening with everybody, not just one or two. Ziemba’s had a few more. We don’t point the blame on anyone. We’ve just got to focus better.”
Right tackle Jason Bosley, a former center who swapped spots with Ryan Pugh, said the line committed to regaining its preseason attitude “that we’re the leaders of this offense” during a meeting Sunday.
“We’ve got to really set the tempo and we’ve kind of gotten away from that a little bit I think,” Bosley said. “We’ve just kind of been grinding a little bit instead of going out there and really leading the offense like we should be.”
MARIO’S CHANCE: Auburn is still trying to find ways to get Mario Fannin the ball. The latest move for the tailback-turned-receiver is lining him up at quarterback for runs in the Tigers’ “War Eagle” formation, which he did three times against Tennessee.
Fannin started practicing the plays last week.
“It worked out pretty good,” he said. “We picked up 4 or 5 yards every time we ran it. We’ve basically just got to hit the hole better and just get better at it.”
Tuberville said the adjustment was easier for Fannin since he was a high school quarterback. He said Fannin’s future probably lies at tailback, but he will play both positions this season.
“Mario gives you an extra dimension running in the backfield,” Tuberville said. “He can throw the ball. It’s new to him, especially on this level, but he understands it a little bit better than someone you just put out there and threw in the mix. I like it. I think it gives you a couple of options. We’ll just see how it works out.
“He’s too good an athlete not to get the ball in his hands.”
Fannin has 54 yards rushing and 53 receiving and 65 on three kick returns.
BYNES’ START: Josh Bynes had a strong starting debut at middle linebacker. Bynes had 11 tackles against Tennessee — two more than he had combined in the first four games — while filling in with Tray Blackmon sidelined by a wrist injury.
It was an adjustment for the 6-foot-2, 230-pound sophomore.
“High school is basically way easier than this,” Bynes said. “You got linemen just about as big as the outdoors. It’s a whole different level of competition, especially in the SEC where everyone’s big, fast and able to get around. That was probably the biggest thing to get over.”
Tuberville said Blackmon will have to play with a club on his hand after cracking a bone in his wrist against LSU. He missed the Tennessee game but could return at Vandy.
If he can’t, Bynes at least has a little more experience.
He said he has gotten “a lot better and a lot more comfortable with the defense and a lot more comfortable with our players. They trust in me, so I’m trusting in them to let me do my thing.”
STICKING WITH BYRUM: Tuberville said Wes Byrum remains Auburn’s starting kicker. Byrum has missed his last three field goals from 42, 22 and 35 yards.
Byrum said he was been working on correcting problems with his mechanics and “going back to the basics.”
“I’m not hitting the ball in the same spot with my foot every time,” he said. “Overall, I haven’t been kicking very well, but I’m getting back to it.”