While an official announcement is still pending, the biggest news item of the week in LSU football is the addition of Jeff Grimes to the staff as offensive line coach.
Grimes, 45, will replace Greg Studrawa, who parted ways with the program last week after a seven-year run leading Tiger offensive lines. LSU’s newest assistant spent the 2013 season on Frank Beamer’s staff at Virginia Tech, coaching the Hokies’ offensive line.
Prior to that Grimes, a native of Garland, Tex., and an offensive tackle at UTEP from 1987-90, served on staffs at Auburn (2009-12), Colorado (2007-08), BYU (2004-06), Arizona State (2001-03) and Boise State (2000). He was the offensive line coach at every stop while tacking on the title of “Run Game Coordinator” at both Arizona State, under Dirk Koetter, and Colorado, under Dan Hawkins. Grimes, an established recruiter with ties all over the country, also spent time as a graduate assistant at Rice and Texas A&M and had brief stints on the Texas high school coaching scene and Division III level.
As he nears his introduction at LSU, TSD gathered more information and perspective on the well-traveled Grimes.
“He’s a great offensive line coach and does a nice job there, but at Virginia Tech it was a tough season for him as they were dealing with a lot of turnover on the offensive line,” recalled Michael Clark, who covers recruiting in Virginia for Scout.com. “When it comes to recruiting, though, he was the primary recruiter for five offensive linemen commits. He was well in the process of getting that position back to where it needed to be. Landing five guys on the offensive line is impressive. Any time you can do that, it shows you’re doing the right things on the recruiting trail.”
Of the five linemen, all three-star prospects, Grimes lured from the states of Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the highest-rated of the bunch is Tyrell Smith, ranked by Scout as the No. 59 offensive guard in the country. At LSU Grimes will deal with an entirely different, that is to say elevated, level of recruit.
According to Clark, the same tools that served Grimes well in Blacksburg should carry over to the brighter, SEC-tinted lights on the bayou.
“First, he has a lot of energy. He obviously has an impressive background and seems to identify with kids very well, with that enthusiasm and energy that rubs off on kids,” Clark explained. “They feel comfortable around him, and that’s a big deal in recruiting. A lot of kids have a number of offers and options, but ultimately it comes down to where they feel comfortable. He’s able to relate to them, and they feel comfortable with him. That’s been a big part of his success.”
There’s more to Grimes than just the recruiting facet, however. LSU also targeted Grimes to make up for a glaring shortcoming under Studrawa – player development along the line and progressing players to the NFL.
Mark Murphy of Inside The Auburn Tigers, who covered Grimes on the Plains, remembers him as a key position coach for a War Eagle program that took off at the turn of the decade and took home the crystal ball on Grimes’ watch in 2010.
“I think one of the things he was really good at was identifying talent and getting the right guys on the field, very thoroughly evaluating in practice who was going to do the best job in games,” said Murphy. “He got them ready to play on Saturdays. The offensive line was very good when he was at Auburn, and that 2010 team had one of the best offensive lines to ever play at Auburn. They had a big part in Auburn winning the national championship that year.”
Per Murphy, Grimes is also a big proponent of cross-training players, something Studrawa practiced liberally during his time at LSU. “He definitely mixed and moved guys around, trying to get the best five guys on the field,” said Murphy. “If he had to move a player from position to position, he was willing to do that and certainly did that at Auburn.”
But, when the dust settles, Grimes’ reputation as an ace recruiter proceeds him, perhaps slightly eclipsing the fact he has coached guys who’ve been All-Conference performers and moved onto the NFL – Levi Jones (the 10th pick of the 2002 draft) and, soon to be, Greg Robinson, for example.
“He’s certainly familiar with Louisiana, but he’s really familiar with a lot of places. He recruits out west,” Murphy reminded of Grimes’ reach. “Alex Kozan, who was a Freshman All-American guard on the team this year, is a guy he recruited out of Colorado. He got a very good offensive lineman out of Florida, and he signed a very good offensive guard out of Arizona. You just look at a lot of the offensive linemen he signed while he was here, and they end up turning into really good players. I think the players really like him, too, and they like playing hard for him.”
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Publisher’s Note: The following comes from a Q & A-style interview Jason Caldwell of ITAT conducted with Jeff Grimes in December 2009, shortly after Grimes’ first regular season came to a close at Auburn.
- On how his college experience shaped him as a coach …
“One thing that was great for me is that I had a bunch of different coaches in college. I had two different head coaches, but I had five different offensive line coaches. One of those was a period when we had two offensive line coaches. We had one who coached the guards and centers and one who coached the tackles. I went through a coaching change every year but one in the five years I was in college. The great thing is that you learn something from everybody. From some of them you learn what you want to do and from some of them you learn what you don’t want to do. I had some great coaches. Andy Reid was my offensive line coach for two years. I certainly learned a lot from him about how to prepare a group and the mindset that you’re trying to instill in an offensive line and how to motivate people by being tough one them, but at the same time letting them know that you care about them. He was extremely attentive to detail. I try to do a lot of those things.”
- On the importance of five guys playing as one on the line …
“I think (camaraderie) is more important than it is at any other position for two reasons. Number one is that we have to play together. All five guys have to be on the same page. We can’t have four guys thinking one thing and one thinking something else. Guys have to get comfortable with each other. There has to be a certain level of trust that is there within the group. I think the other reason, and probably more important in the big-picture, is that those guys really need to get to the point where they play with each other and for each other. The rewards you often get in playing sports come from individual accomplishments. For us it has a lot more to do with group accomplishment. If those guys get to the point where they recognize we accomplish things together, and even though we’re not the ones that get the praise and recognition, the pride that we get from it is looking in the eyes of the man next to you and knowing you’re going to get it done when the game is on the line.”
- On how his assistant coaching stops have shaped him …
“If you’re an inquisitive person and you try to learn from every situation, then you do just that. You become a better coach from every situation you’re in, the winning years as well as the losing years. I have been fortunate to be in some pretty good programs. I was at Boise State right when we were just getting things going. We were kind of mixed at Arizona State. We had some ups and downs. We had some great years at BYU. I learned a lot there. I had one good year and one bad year at Colorado. I had some other experiences before that as well. I coached at a great Division III school. I coached at a really good high school program in Texas. I’ve learned something from all of them, but I have also learned some things about myself and things that are important to me. I think every experience causes you to either become a better person or it reduces your character in some way. I would like to think mine has been increased because of all those (stops).”
- On the biggest adjustment to the SEC …
“Probably the biggest difference has been in recruiting because recruiting here is ever-present. The battle to get the top kids requires such an unbelievable amount of work and effort. That is probably the biggest difference I have noticed since I have been here. The adjustment to coaching football is really none.”
- On how many OL he’d ideally like to keep on a roster …
“I think you are always looking for somewhere between 15 and 20 on the offensive line. Not many people will go as high as 20, but some of the places I have been we have tried to carry 18 or 19. At most places that ideal number has been about 16 or 17. It’s hard to keep that many on a consistent basis ... The problem with recruiting offensive linemen isn’t like recruiting receivers or running backs. You sign two really good ones in a class or even one, and it really changes your makeup at that position. You sign one great offensive lineman and two duds, then you’ve had a bad class because one guy can only block one guy. You have got to get to the point where you sign significant numbers of quality players about three years in a row before you build up the depth to the point where you feel good about it and you’re not having to play young guys. You want to be able to bring everybody in and redshirt them and have enough experience and depth that those guys don’t have to come in and play early.”
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