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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Late, late practice notes: Chizik talks 'what if' scenarios on defense

Wow, tonight turned into a late one. Just one of annoying byproducts of extremely late practices, which, just as a heads up, will continue Thursday night. I'll spare you the intro and get straight to the bullet points ...

... but not before I plug my Twitter account one more time. Seriously, you're probably the last one NOT following this thing. Don't be left out.
  • Linebacker depth has obviously been a big issue this August. Eltoro Freeman sat out again Thursday. So did Spencer Pybus, Adam Herring and freshman Jonathan Evans. Things have gotten so dire that walk-on Ashton Richardson is getting some looks with the ones, leaving many to ponder: is a 4-3 defense a necessity or can the Tigers scheme around their scarcity at linebacker by playing more nickel? "Obviously, we can play some nickel and things, which we got, to help us," Chizik said. "Take a linebacker out and play with two instead of three. Other than that, there’s really no other options right now. Coach Roof and I are in constant discussion about the, ‘what ifs.' We got 14 more weeks before we get a break, give or take, so we’re very conscious of that and you have to have a plan if that happens, and it very well could. Those plans generally are being able to sub and do different packages that require less linebackers. We’ve got a plan."
  • DE Dee Ford moved back to lineman after a brief stint at linebacker. Chizik doesn't have any plans to have anyone else switch positions to linebacker, either. "Those type of candidates aren’t on our team," he said. "They’re somewhere else right now." Sounds like this will be a year-long question. Auburn fans probably don't even want to think what would happen if either Josh Bynes or Craig Stevens went down with an injury.
  • Safety Zac Etheridge has been working as a nickelback, an unusual move, considering most players who go in the game in that situation are cornerbacks. "Zac is kinda one of those hybrid guys that is in between a safety and a corner," Chizik said. "He’s able to do some of those things. Typically your nickel guy is a third corner. But as we alluded to earlier, we’re not stacked up at corner either."
  • CB Neiko Thorpe had an ear infection, according to Walt McFadden. That was the reason for his absence today.
  • McFadden also had a funny quote about being the elder statesman of the secondary, especially compared to newcomers Demond Washington and Harry Adams: "I've taken them under my wing but they've been calling me Daddy. I'm trying to get away from that. I'm still their age, you know? We can still can have fun together, you know? ... Harry Adams: 'Daddy Walt. Daddy Walt. How do I stop this? How do I make this a better situation to defend this receiver better?' He always asks 'Daddy Walt, Daddy Walt.' He even got (Rodney) Cofield -- but I call him Baby Cofield -- he got Cofield calling me Daddy. I feel old over there."
  • Chris Todd isn't the most mobile quarterback, but McFadden says he can get going when the time calls for it. "He can move around the pocket pretty well," he said. "He knows when it's time to run and he knows he's not the fastest guy on the field but he can get us a first down if he have to. He can basically get away from a defender. He's showed everything that (Kodi) Burns can do but Kodi is just a little more athletic than Chris. They basically showing the same thing." Not sure if I believe that, but it's what he said.
  • McFadden quickly clarified his statement not long after. "I've seen him get away from Big Jake (Ricks) one time. The inside guys, you know. I have seen him get away, though. I'm not saying he got away from everybody but he's capable of getting us three, four yards if needed. If he has to take a hit, he'll go in there and throw is head in even if he might come out with a concussion. He's going to do it for the team."
  • McFadden tells us Chizik set up a game room for the players in the athletic complex that has a variety of things to do. "You want to talk about being physical, we're fighting all over those video games," McFadden said. "We got two X-boxes, hockey sticks, pool tables and stuff like that. Everybody kind of got excited and we're fighting over things. That's the most physical part when you really think about it."
  • McFadden claims to be the best at the video football games. "You can't really say Madden because Madden didn't really come out until after camp," he said. "I was really good at college. I've been playing myself in the game. I updated the roster. I got a couple guys on there and changed the name on the back of the jersey. It'll say Tim Hawthorne but it'll be somebody else. It's just a little different but it's one of those things. I've got to get my wins in. I hate losing."
  • Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is cross-training some guys at several positions. He named Zac Clayton, Michael Goggans and Nosa Eguae specifically. "We're just trying to make sure everyone understands what's going on, so if something happens -- you prepare for the worst," Rocker said. "You hope everything's good." He said in a perfect world, he'd like to play eight and possibly one more player to rotate in the lineup.
  • Rocker had good things to say about Eguae: "Nosa has impressed me one, by his maturity and two, by his approach to practice. He's not a high-rep guy. You explain it to him and he catches on pretty fast to what we're doing. And he comes from a good high school program. He's been coached real well and he understands the game. The thing about Nosa that I've enjoyed is that he can make a mistake. He's not standing there watching and wondering what the hell happened. He's chasing the ball, he's playing the game. That's a plus. Now if we can just eliminate the mistakes. You can always coach on fundamentals and technique, but effort, that's the No. 1 thing."
  • He also had good things to say about junior college transfer, DT Nick Fairley: "The first week he was trying to get all the cobwebs out. Second week you started seeing some things like, 'Hey, all right.' This week ... You see he's back, you see spurts of it a little more and more. It's just a matter of getting him back in the football rhythm. You've got to understand in junior college he played defensive end, and we moved him inside to play defensive tackle."
  • I got some good stuff about freshman John Sullen, who worked at right guard in Byron Isom's absence Wednesday. I don't want to spoil it too much since I'll be writing about Sullen for Friday's newspaper, but he told us he weighed in at 357 pounds by the end of his senior year. Naturally, the reactions from the coaches is not printable, even on a blog. He's at 332 now and making progress. More on this in Friday's paper (that's what we in the biz call a tease).
  • Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said he worked Sullen, normally a left guard, with the ones at right guard for the first time tonight. But he's also worked junior walk-on Jorell Bostrom there as well. Does that mean anything? "Well, I think it certainly says that those were the first two guys that will have an opportunity, at least at that point," he said. "It doesn't mean that somebody else might not move in front of them, but those are the two guys who are most ready at that point in yesterday's practice and today's practice."
  • Grimes was quick to note that both players needs to still lose some weight.
  • He also told us that he worked Mike Berry out at tackle some just to cross-train players in case of an emergency.
  • Grimes said if someone got hurt, he'd probably put in the sixth best guy overall and rotate things, but he mentioned a few scenarios where that might not work. "You might only have one guy who's really a capable backup center, and so you're not going to move somebody if you're not in a position where you've got another guy who can do that real well," he said. "And so you might put your next best center in, but he might not be your sixth best. Or you might have a tackle that's out and you might have a guy that may be your sixth best lineman, but he's really an inside guy. So it just kind of depends on the circumstances. Sometimes you bump that guy in and bump somebody else out to tackle. It just depends who your next best guy is. And it also depends on how much difference there is from one guy to the next. Also depends on how long-term you're talking about. If you're just talking about getting through a game vs. making a long-term move if somebody's going to be out for a month or a season."
  • Center Ryan Pugh had good things to say about right tackle Andrew McCain, who's a projected starter after a long wait as a backup: "McCain is one of our leaders. He’s been around for five years. He’s doing as well as anybody up front. He’s a completely different player than he’s been the last four years. He’s got a lot of energy. He’s just working hard every day. It’s nice to see him in there because he is one of our friends upfront. All five of us, it’s a different type of relationship than we had last year."
  • Running backs coach Curtis Luper said he'd like to have three running backs he'd be comfortable putting in the game. At the very least, two. "Really, really like to play two – 20 carries for one guy and 10-12 for another one," he said. "That’s when you have two that are established. We haven’t really established two yet." Ben Tate is certainly a No. 1. After that, who knows? "Probably Onterio (McCalebb) and Eric Smith. They’ll be right there and so will Mario. We still haven’t solidified all that yet. Next week we’ll know. They’ll all play out there."
  • As Luper was being interviewed in the Rane Room, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, in his usual manner, heckled him from the lobby. "It never stops," Luper said. "Try living with him for four months. That was like four months I didn’t sleep. It’s like 2:30 and he’ll be watching the Discovery (Channel) and say, ‘Man, have you seen these whales?’ I’ll say, ‘Nah.’ I’m serious. Then I’ll go to sleep and wake up and it’ll be 6:30, ‘Were you watching the whales all night?’ ‘No, no. I went to sleep.’"
  • Luper claims Trooper's enthusiasm isn't an act. "Every day he’s the same," he said. "He doesn’t change. I’ve never seen him sick, I’ve never seen him sleep. I’ve heard he sleeps though. I’ve never actually seen him in the fetal position in the bed. I’ve never seen him sleep. I don’t know what it is. He doesn’t drink coffee. He doesn’t need anything He’s just ready to go."

1 comment:

l said...

Thanks for the updates. Very thorough and informative.