Auburn Recruiting: How J.B. Grimes Is Building Another Elite Offensive Line

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Auburn Recruiting: How J.B. Grimes Is Building Another Elite Offensive Line
247Sports
Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes

When Auburn offensive line coach J.B. Grimes started his collegiate coaching career, football players did not hold infamous hat-swapping signing day ceremonies, have YouTube highlight videos or post on Twitter.

But the 35-year veteran has not missed a beat in today's world of recruiting.

With their first two classes on the Plains, Grimes and the rest of the Auburn coaching staff went for quality over quantity on the offensive line. But in the span of three months, Auburn has already matched the number of offensive linemen from 2013 and 2014 for its class of 2015:

Auburn Offensive Line Signings/Commitments, 2013-2015
G Devonte Danzey 3-star, No. 2 JUCO G 2013
G Deon Mix 3-star, No. 18 G 2013
G Braden Smith 4-star, No. 3 G 2014
C Xavier Dampeer 3-star, No. 2 JUCO C 2014
G Tyler Carr 4-star, No. 10 G 2015
OT Kaleb Kim 4-star, No. 25 OT 2015
OT Bailey Sharp 3-star, No. 42 OT 2015
G Marquel Harrell 3-star, No. 35 G 2015

247Sports Composite Rankings

Grimes, who has coached at Arkansas, Virginia Tech and Mississippi State, has been key to this resurgence on the recruiting trail.

Shortly after former left tackle Greg Robinson declared for the NFL draft, Auburn became a factor for Braden Smith, who was the nation's No. 3 guard.

247Sports

When Smith picked Auburn over Texas A&M and TCU on national signing day, head coach Gus Malzahn credited Grimes with helping get the Kansas native to sign with the Tigers.

"Coach Grimes did a great job of developing a great relationship in a short period of time," Malzahn said. "[Smith] came on a visit and just hit it off. Auburn is his type of place."

Although he only targets offensive linemen, Grimes is currently rated by 247Sports as the No. 22 recruiter in the SEC, which puts him No. 3 among offensive line coaches. The two coaches ahead of him, Texas A&M's B.J. Anderson and South Carolina's Shawn Elliott, have commitments from targets who play defense.

Following Kaleb Kim's commitment to Auburn in April, the program's third offensive line pickup in the span of six days, wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig took to Twitter to congratulate Kim's head recruiter:

While he has been coaching at the collegiate level since 1979, Grimes still conducts drills at practice with the enthusiasm and the passion of someone just breaking into the business.

He has also brought that energy over to recruiting, and it has paid dividends for Auburn's recent classes.

"I liked what Coach Grimes is doing and his intensity," Kim told 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr (subscription required). "He gets after it. He's intense. Face to face, he's the nicest guy, but on the field, it's all business...he'll get after you, and I like that."

Grimes demands that same type of energy from his offensive linemen. In Malzahn's hurry-up, no-huddle offense, the front five has to be in top physical shape to get from play to play and still control the line of scrimmage.

The revitalization of Auburn's line was not easy for Grimes or his new players, who were transitioning from a pro-style offense back to Malzahn's patented system.

"When I walked into that room a year ago, I didn’t know what I was going to get," Grimes said at a speaking engagement in May, per AL.com's Brandon Marcello. "I knew that there was some talent here, but I didn’t realize we had some kids here that wanted to win, that wanted to get better."

It took a few weeks into the season to hit their stride, but the offensive linemen definitely got better in 2013.

Auburn's Offense: 2012 vs. 2013
STATISTIC 2012 2013
Rushing Yards per Game 148.42 (80th) 328.29 (1st)
Points per Game 18.7 (114th) 39.5 (12th)
Sacks Allowed 37 (107th) 18 (31st)
Plays of 10+ Yards 145 (105th) 229 (19th)
First Downs per Game 15.5 (122nd) 23.9 (26th)

CFBStats.com

Robinson's rise from a relative unknown on the national scene to the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft might be the best illustration of Grimes' talent as an offensive line coach.

Standing at 6'5" and 320 pounds, Robinson—like several offensive line recruits under Auburn's previous regimes—had the physical gifts to be a general manager's dream draft pick.

After a year under the training of Grimes, he received the other tools he needed to succeed at the next level.

"J.B., he's as good as anyone I've ever seen or been around at just the fundamentals of his position," offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. "J.B. can get the most out of them, and that's what we all need to do."

Grimes estimates he has coached "somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 guys" who have either played in the NFL or at least received an invitation to a training camp, as per NFL.com's Dan Greenspan.

Elsa/Getty Images
Former Auburn OT Greg Robinson

His ability to turn young offensive linemen into complete pro prospects, even in the unorthodox no-huddle offense, is part of what makes Auburn appealing to new recruits.

"I liked Auburn more than Tennessee because it’s a better program with better coaches," Harrell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Carvell"Coach Grimes has experience into transforming average players into beasts, like Greg Robinson."

Another advantage Grimes and Auburn have in recruiting top offensive linemen is the opportunity for early playing time.

One of Auburn's greatest strengths for the 2014 season is its veteran offensive line, which features four returning starters after the early departure of Robinson.

However, after this season, nine of the 10 Tigers on the projected two-deep offensive line depth chart will be eligible for the NFL draft.

So while Auburn has already received commitments from four offensive linemen for the class of 2015, Grimes still has work to do on the recruiting trail.

Auburn is still in the hunt for Martez Ivey, the nation's No. 1 tackle. The 5-star from Apopka, Florida is teammates with Chandler Cox, a current Tigers commitment who is pushing to get his friend to join him on the Plains.

The Tigers are also heavily recruiting 4-star tackles Drew Richmond and Javon Patterson. Richmond said he is particularly impressed with Grimes' pedigree of developing linemen for the next level.

“He’s been around so long—there must be a reason he’s been around," Richmond told Niebuhr (subscription required). He’s been around so long, he’s the only coach I probably trust 100 percent to get me to the league."

In an interview with Niebuhr (subscription required), 3-star center and The Opening invitee Darryl Williams points to Grimes' influence on his personal recruitment and the resurgence of the Tigers offensive line:

Coach Grimes is a great coach. The offensive line was the weakest link the season before and became the strong link...they’re saying I have a chance to come in and be a three-year or four-year starter. I like hearing that.

 

Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats taken from CFBStats.com. Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com.

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