September 6, 2012 7:49:32 AM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University head coach Dan Mullen is experimenting in practice to prepare his young offensive tackles for the unique speed rush they'll see Saturday.
The Auburn University defense, which features a new defensive coordinator in Brian VanGorder from the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League, features a pair of talented pass rushers that find the quarterback simply by running around big, tall, powerful offensive tackles.
Tigers defensive ends Dee Ford and Corey Lemonier used the national platform of last weekend's game against Clemson University to showcase their abilities in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The duo combined for 13 tackles and four sacks in the 26-17 to No. 14 Clemson and created havoc for quarterback Tajh Boyd.
After watching the amount Ford and Lemonier were in the Clemson backfield, Mullen has insisted his young and inexpierenced offensive tackles not be shocked by the amount of athletic ability they'll be facing in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN).
"They're explosive players (and) they have tremendous speed off the edge," Mullen said in Wednesday's SEC media teleconference. "It is one of the things we try to do is create matchups in pass rush in practice this week to simulate the speed we're going to see on Saturday, so our guys aren't shocked by the explosiveness of their two starting ends. They can really rush the passer. They really get off the ball well."
One of the easy ways Mullen can simulate Lemonier, one of the league's best defensive ends, is with a pass rusher of their own in junior college transfer Denico Autry and senior Shane McCardell simply by scrimmaging offensive starters against defensive starters this week.
Lemonier was a first-team All-SEC selection by the league's coaches and given a second-team honor by the Associated Press. In his sophomore season he led the Tigers (0-1) with 13.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and 15 quarterback hurries. One of the 246-pound lineman's biggest games came against the Bulldogs last season during Auburn's 41-34 home victory when he had five tackles and one sack on MSU quarterback Chris Relf.
"I just want to work on my hands more and dipping my shoulders a lot more," Lemonier told the Huntsville Times this week. "It creates a problem for the tackles to go down and reach me. You know, they're 6-7-plus, so it's hard for them if you're kneeling on the ground."
Ford is a more-hybrid type player that will be used in VanGorder's professional-based scheme in multiple ways either by standing him up at the line of scrimmage or with his hand in the ground near the snap of the football. Before being sidelined later in the 2011 season with a back injury, Ford had three tackles, one for a loss and two quarterback hurries against MSU.
MSU will be working with a pair of sophomores in starters Blaine Clausell and Damien Robinson at either offensive tackle spot with junior college transfer Charles Siddoway as the swing backup that can play on either side.
When asked about the matchup of MSU's inexperience up front in his turn on the league's teleconference, Auburn coach Gene Chizik said he was impressed with their size and mass on the offensive line.
"I wouldn't get too caught up in youth or inexperience of those guys," Chizik said. "They're very big and they're very athletic, and that's what we've noticed on film. We've got our work cut out for us."
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