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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Late notes: Nothing resolved on QB front

AUBURN, Ala. — The news on Auburn's quarterback front Wednesday was that there was no news.

Head coach Gene Chizik met with offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to watch and discuss film from Tuesday's scrimmage, which featured all five of the Tigers' active quarterbacks, but he made no grand pronouncement when speaking with reporters after the second of two Wednesday practices.

"We gathered a lot of information off of yesterday," Chizik said. "Obviously the goal is to narrow this thing down as quick as we can. We're certainly working in that direction. We feel closer than where we were three days ago, that's for sure. Yesterday's information-gathering was very productive. We're getting close. We're getting to the point where we're narrowing down."

Malzahn had morning meetings with the quarterbacks to talk about procedural things from the scrimmage each one needs to correct, but there was no mention of naming a starter.

"Basically just a pretty routine meeting," senior Chris Todd said.

When the team practiced, veterans Todd, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle all worked with the orange, first team, while freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley split reps with the blue, second team.

None of the three veterans quarterbacks said he knows exactly where he stands in the race or how long it might last.

"We're patient," Caudle said. "We know it's a tough decision for the coaches, and coach Malzahn in particular. We're all antsy to get out there and get more reps. That's just how we are. We know this is how the process works, and we know it's a tough decision for them."

Some other notes to come out of our late interviews Wednesday night ...
  • Auburn went full pads in the late practice Wednesday. "I thought it was very physical," Chizik said. "They're trying to push through. This is Day 8 of camp, and you can tell they're a little leg-weary. But they really did a nice job of trying to push through on both practices.
  • We have Auburn's practice schedule up until the start of school on Aug. 17. But even after that, Chizik made it sound like they will still be in a training camp mode, since there will still be so much time until their Sept. 5 opener against Louisiana Tech. "At that point, you always want to be able to try to work on your opponent from eight to nine working days out," he said. "Because realistically, you game-plan and you practice about three-and-a-half to four days on a normal week, so you always want to have a little extra time to prepare. But there will be more a two-a-day mentality in terms of installation and things that we really need to polish up on once school starts. We won't be able to get to Louisiana Tech at that point."
  • Auburn plans to scrimmage for a second time Saturday. The Tigers have back-to-back days off after that. Sunday is Fan Day and Monday is the first day of classes.
  • We got a few defensive linemen during the late interviews. NG Jake Ricks said junior college transfer Nick Fairley has been working at defensive tackle beside him on the first team. Projected starter Mike Blanc was slowed early in practice by an undisclosed injury.
  • DE Michael Goggans said he's been working some at defensive tackle. "Coach (Tracy) Rocker wants everybody to know the whole d-line," Goggans said, "so if somebody goes down, he wants to know who he can depend on and put in certain spots in different situations." Goggans, who weighs 265 pounds, said he probably would play inside in pass-rushing situations. "I could probably add a little more weight, but my strength, I'm holding my ground pretty good," he said.
  • More ambiguous statements about Montez Billings and his academic situation. "Right now we're still kind of working through some of those issues," Chizik said. "He's practicing as if he is going to be able to play. But right now we're going to be looking through those issues and we'll know more soon." The mystery continues!
  • Chizik also thinks some freshmen wideouts will play, mostly because that seems like a position where the size element doesn't eliminate them from immediately contributing. "A lot of times the skill positions, over history, have a chance to play a little bit faster than some of the other guys," he said. "The game is so physical at some other positions. It could very well be that we’re depending on young guys at not only that position, but some others ones are going to have to step up and play. That could be a reality for our football team."
  • Chizik named a few veteran standouts from the scrimmage, citing LB Josh Bynes, LB Craig Stevens and RB Eric Smith.
  • Speaking of Smith, he had a touchdown run in the scrimmage. and if feeling much better after suffering a bone bruise in his leg during the spring that kept him out of action. "I did pretty good, I believe, except for the almost-fumble on the goal-line," he said. "I know that’s the one thing I need to fix – learn to hold onto the ball a little bit tighter. Other than that I felt like I did pretty good picking up protections and everything."
  • Smith is a bruiser, up to 232 pounds. "Actually I’m still trying to drop a couple to get a little bit of extra speed for the extra burst through the hole," he said.
  • P Clinton Durst said he's not booting the ball as well as he'd like to this August. The senior said he tweaked his knee a little, something he also did last season.
  • He said there is a lot more instruction under special teams coordinator Jay Boulware this year. "So much tougher," he said. "He's always on us. He never stops with wanting us to do drills. A lot of them are the same drills that people do nationwide but he's more but he's more on top of us. You get annoyed and then you're like 'Wait, I mean, he's trying to help me out.' You got to understand. It's a lot tougher but I like it a lot better."
  • Auburn has done some work with a personal protection formation, with three blockers lined up several yards behind the line and not too far in front of the punter. "They're at a 7 1/2 yards but I'm standing at 15, so if I hit them in the back of the head, there's something wrong with me," he said.
  • Durst has also been experimenting with a one-step approach, instead of the usual three. "I've been doing that just to try it out," he said. "And tell you what man, I feel like I'm hitting the ball better doing that then when I'm taking three steps so I might switch over to one step but I've got to work on it a little more."
  • Durst didn't touch a question about whether or not he thinks he'll get a scholarship. I think he's learned to tread very carefully on that front after his winter shenanigans.
  • One last note from Wednesday. Rollison informed sports information that his first name is pronounced TIE-rick, with an emphasis on the first syllable and a different pronunciation to the last part. Here we've been pronouncing it wrong all the time.

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