Coaching spotlight: Jeff Grimes
Age: 40 (born 9/23/68)
College: B.A. from U. Texas-El Paso, 1991 (education); M.A. from Texas A&M, 1997 (education).
Playing career: Spent four years -- two as a starter -- as an offensive tackle at UTEP.
•Auburn, offensive line(current)
•Colorado, offensive line (2007-08)
•Brigham Young, offensive line (2004-06)
•Arizona State, offensive line (2001-03)
•Boise State, offensive line (2000)
•Hardin-Simmons, offensive line (1998-99)
•Texas A&M, graduate assistant (1996-97)
•Rice, graduate assistant (1995)
•Riverside H.S. in El Paso, Texas, offensive coordinator (1993-94)
The primary guy is Dirk Koetter, former head coach at Boise State and Arizona State. He now is the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator. Other influences include Andy Reid (Philadelphia Eagles head coach) and R.C. Slocomb (former Texas A&M coach).
Previous Auburn experience:
Grimes is about as new-school as it gets. Though he spent a significant portion of his career around Dirk Koetter, one of the most gruff coaches around, Grimes doesn't consider scolding a powerful instructional tool. Much like Curtis Luper, Grimes corrects mistakes by explaining how each mistake affected everything else that occurred during a given play.
It's a cerebral approach. There is almost no yelling involved.
Grimes believes in verbalization. During practice, you'll hear him talk his way through a drill. He'll explain what he wants to see and why he wants it done that way. After he explains, he'll then backtrack through his instructions and make players answer questions about those instructions. He'll make them speak. He's forceful about the whole endeavor, but it's not an angry thing. Grimes doesn't dawdle. He wants to move briskly through his agenda.
He has said that contact is a critical part of his training regimen. Auburn's surprisingly small group of healthy scholarship linemen forced Grimes to curb the number of full-contact drills during the spring. He seemed bothered by that. We'll see how that develops as the Tigers re-build their player supply during the next few years.
He values toughness above all. Grimes believes everyone can learn how to think like a useful lineman. Being tough, in his opinion, is a trait that cannot be created from scratch. His goal is to sign tough guys and build on that foundation.
Grimes seems open-minded when it comes to techniques. He has taught a variety of different styles during his career, which has kept him from becoming betrothed to either two- or three-point blocking. Many coaches feel strongly about one or the other. Grimes seems fine with both.
He has spent most of his career in spread-type offenses.
Grimes is a happy guy. If football wasn't part of his life, I could see Grimes as a successful pitch man. He speaks firmly, his voice projects, he has a tidy appearance and you believe what he's saying.
More than once, I have passed by Grimes' office to the sound of reggae music. When he's coaching, he's intense. When he's not coaching, Grimes is a calm, introspective guy. He is as dedicated as anyone to building one-on-one relationships with his players. Grimes seems genuinely interested in becoming an important part of their college lives.
You don't hear much about it, but Grimes plays an important role in the Tigers' recruiting enterprise. Auburn has a mixture of promoters and realists. Grimes is a promoter along with Trooper Taylor, Curtis Luper and Tommy Thigpen. He can command a room. He can cold-call kids and establish a meaningful relationship with them. He can sell the program without any hint of inhibition.
I think he's upwardly mobile, but it's hard to see Grimes as a head coach. He's almost too nice. I don't mean to say he's soft. He's not. It just seems like the altruistic, happy-go-lucky head coach is teetering on the verge of extinction. Maybe that will change.
Photo credit: Todd Van Emst/Auburn University
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