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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday quotes

Listened to Auburn coaches Tommy Tuberville, Terry Price and Steve Ensminger today. The two assistants were particularly timely since they're the position coaches at each of Gabe McKenzie's positions -- tight end/inside receiver (Ensminger) and defensive end (Price). They assured us that Gabe will still play some offense after switching to defensive end today. That seems to be a difficult proposition, but more power to him if he can pull it off.

First, I'll post some notes from Tuberville's comments and then drop some quotes from that trio -- some of which I used in my stories for Wednesday, some of which I didn't -- below the notes.

* Still no word on Reggie Hunt as of this morning.
* Brad Lester (ankle) and Tristan Davis (foot) still did not practice. Tuberville said they would wait until they're 100 percent. He said Davis is about 75.
* Jake Ricks (knee bruise) is apparently OK. Truthfully, I didn't know until Tuberville said he was relieved Jake wasn't seriously injured that he was injured at all. Said he did some jogging on the side today and should be back practicing shortly.
* Jomarcus Savage (shoulder) should be back soon as well. Tuberville predicted he and Ricks will probably do conditioning stuff all week and then come back next week to start game prep. Tubs said the plan is to play Savage if he can stay healthy.
* Bart Eddins (shoulder) may or may not play in the first game, he said. He said Eddins' shoulder is still sore and regaining its strength and he won't go until he's 100 percent.
* He said they're still undecided on redshirting a handful of freshmen. The names he mentioned were Harry Adams, Spencer Pybus, Darvin Adams and Barrett Trotter, adding, "you can pretty much name most of them yourselves." He said Gabe switching to defense might mean freshman Vance Smith has a better chance to play this year.
* Darrell Roseman is also playing some offensive line, although he's not especially healthy yet.

So here are some of the highlights of what they had to say...

Tubs on what they accomplished this morning:
"We divided up some. Not a whole lot. Everybody didn’t go to scout teams today. We still wanted to look at a few guys that might not go to scout team, but it was a good start to game preparation. We spent probably half of practice working on the Warhawks and the other we’re still working on the fundamentals. A lot of guys still need fundamentals and we’re not gonna stop that – we don’t stop that all year. And we always spend on Tuesday about 20, 25 minutes a day working against each other, ones versus ones, ones versus twos, and then we got into game preparation of special teams, working at what we think they might do on special teams and putting a few new things in that we haven’t done in the first few weeks."

Tuberville on Gabe McKenzie's decision to play defense:
"He kinda saw that the line was pretty long there with Tommy doing so well. But he catches the ball and has done better. He will also play tight end, but with Raven Gray slowed a little bit with his injury, who will eventually be a good football player for us, Gabe thought that he might be able to get some snaps on the defensive side. Today was his first time in full pads. He did very good, he’s just got a lot to learn. But I think as the year goes on, he could really give us a lot of help there. He’s very athletic and he was a very good defensive player in high school. But this situation that we’ve got right now, he sees that if he wants to be on the field more, he might have to get some reps at defensive end. The defensive end position we’re playing him at is the tight end side where you’ve got to be physical, and that’s right up his alley."

Tuberville on McKenzie's immediate prospects at DE:
"I’m not saying he’s gonna play 30, 40 snaps in the first game, but I would see him possibly getting in the game quite a bit. But this week would be the telling tale. He’ll have to show us something this week because of all the fundamentals that we’ll do and not do next week. We’re gonna be just kind of in a game mode next week."

Tuberville on how this helps Gabe, more on his decision:
"You don’t tell anybody where to play. That’s kind of our deal. We kinda let them see it. Gabe last year, he played, I’m gonna guess on average maybe 20 plays a game. He wants to be out there more. He’s very enthusiastic about football. He loves football. So I think this is a great move for him. I think it gives him a chance to have an opportunity at both after next year. He’s a junior and one more year will give him a chance to get a look at the next level at both of them."

Ensminger on moving McKenzie to defense:
"We kinda discussed it and felt like he could give some depth on defense over there, so he’s gonna spend some time over there and if he can help the team, then it’ll be good. But he’ll still get some offensive reps. He’s gonna get some offensive reps. We need him on the other side of the football. He understands it. So right now he probably needs to spend this whole week over there learning their system and all that. But he’ll still get his plays in on offense."

Ensminger on how defensive coaches seem to have had their eyes on McKenzie for a while:
"They see him out there running and everything else with a big body and say, ‘Hey, he can play defensive end.’ I guess during the course of the years, we’ve had enough depth at defensive end that we felt pretty comfortable. Right now, we’ve had some people banged up, I guess, and the depth’s a little short there, so he kinda wanted to do it. And if it’ll help the team, I’m for it."

Ensminger on how Terrell Zachary has looked in camp:
"Really good. For a player that has had some ups and downs here at Auburn with his academics or whatever, trying to get on the field, (he’s a) very responsible young man. He’s done everything I’ve asked him to do, has worked his tail off. Like I said, he’s probably – at my position, I know – the most improved player since last January to now that I have."

Price on what he knew about McKenzie before Tuesday:
"Tight ends and defensive ends do a lot of competition against each other every single day in practice so obviously you know about him, know about his ability. I guess that’s something he wanted to do and obviously I welcome that with open arms. We’re gonna work with him the best we can and see if we can get him ready to play defensive end in the SEC."

Price on how quickly McKenzie will contribute:
"It just depends on how fast he develops. It’s hard to tell after one day, but obviously he has athletic ability, he has toughness, he runs well and now it’s a matter of learning the defense and learning the techniques it takes to play out there."

Price on the versatility it takes for McKenzie to do both:
"There’s a lot of guys on both sides of the ball that can switch sides at any time because of their ability. Obviously we worked with the guys we had and it’s kind of a situation where he kinda in his mind made his mind up that he wanted to come over there and play defense. Obviously when he did decide to do that, we took him with open arms and we’ll put him to work every single day and see what he can do."

Price on whether it's easier to play strongside DE (where McKenzie is playing) or weakside:
"From a learning point of view, it’s a little bit easier because, again, you don’t have to worry about dropping into coverage and doing some of the things you have to do in a 3-4.
(Strongside is) a little less challenging as far as that part’s concerned, so he won’t have to learn the coverages and won’t have to learn how to drop on receivers and running backs and tight ends and all those things. But he’ll still have to learn where to go and where to line up and how to get everything going."

Price on the good news that Jomarcus Savage would be back shortly:
"Very, very, very encouraging. A young player like that needs to be out there every single day. Anytime you hurt a shoulder, you never know how bad it is – whether it’s a few days out, a year out, surgery, whatever it is, you just never know. So it’s very, very good to hear that he won’t have to have any kind of major surgery right now. I think he’s gonna be fine. He’s gonna work hard, rehab and get out there as soon as he can."

Price on the depth chart at strongside DE:
"That situation is really in flux right now. We’ve got Mike Goggans that I think is established right now as the starter at that position. Right now we’re still trying to figure out who’s behind at that position right now. He was doing well before he got hurt, so we’ll have to get him healthy and get all our guys on the field and kinda evaluate them and see where they sit."

Price on Raven Gray:
"He’s pushing through everything right now and working as hard as he can and trying to do the best he can on the football field to help himself on the depth chart. That’s kinda where it is."

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