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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Late Tuesday practice notes: Christopher keeping LB spot warm; QB Rollison has the flu

AUBURN, Ala. — Weak-side linebacker Eltoro Freeman is slowly working himself back into Auburn’s rotation from a hamstring injury. Walk-on Wade Christopher has kept his spot warm.

Christopher, a redshirt sophomore from Vestavia Hills, Ala., has moved around all three linebacker positions, filling in whenever there’s been a need.

“I feel like my strength is just knowing how all three positions work,” he said. “I feel like I can play at any one of them. I know as far as what one guy does and how the others defend off it.”

Freeman, a projected starter, returned Tuesday after missing most of the last two weeks with hamstring and hand issues (he no longer had a cast on his right wrist). But Christopher worked with the first team at weak side during an 11-on-11 drill.

“I’m just happy to help the defense any way I can,” Christopher said. “Obviously you don’t want guys going down in front of you, but that’s the point of having depth. You have to have guys behind you stepping up.”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Christopher didn’t have any major scholarship offers coming out of high school but got a chance to walk on at Auburn, his favorite team growing up. He also chose the school for its strong Biomedical Science program.

He played sparingly his freshman year on special teams before being redshirted last year. But with Auburn’s depth situation at linebacker this August, there’s a good chance he could get on the field early this season.

“I haven’t been on the field and I’m fittin’ to get out there,” Christopher said. “So I’m really excited.”

Here are some more late practice notes (which you can find out even quicker about if you follow the blog on Twitter) ...
  • Freshman quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who is battling junior Neil Caudle for the backup job, missed Tuesday’s practice because of the flu, Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. Coaches have given Rollison the majority of reps with the second team since naming Chris Todd the starting quarterback two weeks ago. Caudle worked with the second team during a portion of Tuesday’s practice open to the media. According to the Opelika-Auburn News, 25 players on Opelika High’s football team sat out of practice Monday, most with flu-like symptoms. Chizik is trying to avoid a similar situation on the eve of the season. “We’re trying everything we can do to keep it from spreading to our team,” Chizik said. “(Rollison’s) just got a little bit of that. He’s fine. He’ll be fine.”
  • Wide receiver Montez Billings has to meet more than Chizik’s standards to get back on the field. Days after wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said all he was waiting for was Chizik’s approval to allow the senior back into the receiver rotation, Chizik said he was waiting for word from someone else. “It’s in somebody else’s (hands),” he said. Billings, who graduated last spring, sat out the spring because of an academic issue. He returned this summer but still has an ambiguous team standing. On Tuesday, he worked as a scout team player, wearing a blue No. 18 jersey during drills instead of his usual 84. “I don’t really know exactly where we are with that,” Chizik said, “but obviously we’re going to be paying close attention to that in the next few days.”
  • It sounds like Auburn is doing some more prep for Louisiana Tech than the last couple weeks. "We've got to the point now where we've started to do some looks teams. We spent some of the day going against each other, trying to keep a fastball tempo mentality, but still work enough Louisiana Tech. We're working Louisiana Tech, there's no question about it, we're more in that mode than we've been, but we've got so many things within ourselves that we've got to fix that we just can't go full-bore on Louisiana Tech yet."
  • DE Antonio Coleman did some of his pass rushing standing up instead of coming out of his stance. "Antonio is a guy right now that athletically you can do both with," Chizik said. "You can stand him up; you can move him down. I think he kind of likes standing up. It's a whole different perspective because you can see and you're a linebacker some, you're a defensive lineman some, you're a hybrid. I think he's kind of built for that. And it's good to kind of be able to possibly have those options with a guy like him. And before we got here, he's done that before too. So I think he's got a comfort level with it."
  • Chizik said Coleman IS NOT working at linebacker.
  • TE Tommy Trott's description of Gus Malzahn's offense: "Detailed, detailed, detailed." Sounds like Malzahn is a nit-picker when it comes to placement. "He’s chewing you out before the ball’s even snapped because, really in this offense, alignments are so critical," Trott said. "I’ve never really realized it but the way he stresses it, it totally makes sense. Things that he says, ‘We’re going to stretch the field vertically and horizontally.’ You never really realize that if your alignments aren’t perfect with where he wants them, if you’re in a yard or two, that doesn’t make the defense accountable for the horizontal, or the width of the field, and the length of the field. He’s all about details. Routes, they’re precision routes, precision passing. The quarterback is taking three steps and he’s getting rid of the ball instead of sitting back there and patting the ball and waiting to see if the receiver going to keep it high or if he feels like he has to banana it or stuff like that."
  • Count Trott among those who think Todd's shoulder is back. "He’s slinging the ball around," Trott said. "He looks so good. Honestly, we saw it from him for a while last year. I’m not sure when his shoulder got tired. He says he was never 100 percent. We thought he was throwing the ball around really well last year at the end of the season. Looking back at it, and what we see now, it’s pretty obvious that he wasn’t there last year. Being the competitor that he is, he was trying to battle through things to say on the field. It’s evident of what we see now, it’s pretty obvious he was 100 percent last year."
  • Trott thinks Todd wants to show a thing or two to Auburn fans who got increasingly vocal with their displeasure for how he played last year. "I’m sure he does – not that you’re going to go out there and prove yourself to the fans – but you’re going to go out there to have fun and succeed," Trott said. "He came and busted his butt, and obviously last year didn’t go as well as he wanted. I’m sure he got a lot of criticism. That’s just the way it is in SEC football. I’m sure he is real excited about the chance to go out there and prove himself, and truly show what he is capable of doing."
  • DB D'Antoine Hood (Central-Phenix) is still not practicing right now because of a high-ankle sprain. DB T'Sharvan Bell is back but working between safety and cornerback.
  • That leaves only four scholarship players working exclusively as cornerbacks -- Walt McFadden, Neiko Thorpe, Harry Adams and Demond Washington. McFadden's not concerend. "I’m not going to be the iron man," he said. "We’ve got four DBs that can help out. You can put them in at any time of the game and they would help out. I believe that if any one of us goes down, we’ve got a guy that can back him up. They’ve just got to grow up."
  • Chizik said he hopes to have the depth chart, which is about 90 percent complete, finalized soon. He didn't say he would post it for players to see, per se. "They know, "Chizik said. "You can tell how many reps you're getting or things of that nature. Obviously they know that we're not going to be spending a lot of time repping guys right now that we don't think can help."

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