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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Little settled in QB race after scrimmage

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn billed Tuesday’s scrimmage as an important test for his quarterbacks, a chance to make an impression before he narrows his search for a starter.

But both he and head coach Gene Chizik weren’t drawing any conclusions immediately following the scrimmage, and a few Tigers players didn’t envy their position.

“All the quarterbacks looked pretty good,” cornerback Walt McFadden said. “I wouldn’t want to be Malzahn right now.”

All five of Auburn’s quarterbacks — veterans Chris Todd, Kodi Burns and Neil Caudle and true freshmen Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley — had their chance at Jordan-Hare Stadium during the closed scrimmage, splitting reps almost evenly during the approximately 80 plays, with the two newcomers getting more of the action at the end.

Moseley provided the capper, according to the players, connecting with freshman Emory Blake on a deep post pattern for a touchdown in the offense’s 41-32 victory using the same reward-based scoring system Chizik installed last spring.

But the score wasn’t the important part for Malzahn.

“Everybody played,” he said. “That’s what you need to do. When you’re evaluating and really trying to get good information on the young guys, you need to give them a good chance, and we rotated some guys in. ... We would like to (narrow things down) as soon as possible, but at the same time we want to be 110 percent sure.”

“I think it’s getting to the point where here in a few days we’re going to have to really look at doing that,” Chizik said of narrowing the field. “(Gus) and I will stay on the same page and discuss the time frame that we want to do that, but obviously the sooner the better. Tonight will be a lot of great information in that direction.”

Here are few notes from tonight ...
  • These closed scrimmages are an absolute nightmare for us reporters. We don't get to see any action, don't get any stats and have to trust second-hand information from players who generally give about 20 different accounts of what happened on the field. For instance, we heard from three different players that Onterio McCalebb scored on a 5-yard run, a 30-yard run or a 40-yard run. Now, there's a pretty big difference in those numbers. So take any information coming out of this with a grain of salt. Although most of it's probably accurate, some of it is certainly prone to hyperbole.
  • Back to the quarterbacks. The veteran quarterbacks estimated that they each led about two drives, hardly enough to get in a rhythm. But they realized Tuesday’s scrimmage wasn’t the only factor in Malzahn’s decision. “This is an evaluation day, but at the same time we’ve had six, seven practices now,” Burns said.
  • Want a great quote that pretty much sums up the quarterback competition so far this August? Here's a gem from Todd in which he pretty much does a 180 halfway through his answer: “A week doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but as much as we’re in here and as much as we’re out here practicing and stuff, I think he’s got a good grasp of how he’ll do things. I don’t know. He might have a good grasp on it, he might not have a good one at all. ... He hasn’t given us much feedback on where we stand in it.” All right, then. Sounds like things are certainly sorted out.
  • Despite the offense's victory, some defensive starters said the first group didn't score against the ones on defense. As McFadden said afterward, "Scoreboard-wise, the offense won." I'm going to use that line any time I lose at something in the future.
  • Burns said he led two drives, one of which ended in a field goal. Another ended on a busted play.I think I've done a great job," he said of his overall play. "These few years that I've been here, especially last year all that I went through, and then trying to prove myself through the season I felt like I earned that job. Starting over fresh now so I feel like I've done a pretty good job and that's up to the coaches."
  • Todd didn't lead any scoring drives but was pleased with his first game-like action since last season. "It's fun being back out there," he said. "It's no fun watching stuff so it was fun being out at a live scrimmage."
  • We didn't get to talk to Caudle afterward thanks to a miscommunication during the requesting process, so we don't know how he did.
  • These touchdowns we can sort of confirm: Eric Smith and McCalebb both had touchdown runs. McCalebb had this to say afterward: "I started to feel my rhythm. I know where the holes are going to be. I get to it. After that I get past everybody and it's a wrap. I'm gone."
  • Rollison connected with tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen on a touchdown pass that covered 15 to 20 yards. "I thought I did a pretty good job out there," Rollison said. "Being surrounded by a whole bunch of college guys and this being my freshman year, it was kind of hectic. I wasn't nervous but I guess the change of speed from high school in college, that's a big step. The speed out there was like crazy."
  • Blake caught the game-winner, a deep post route (about 40 yards, he said) from Moseley. "I didn't have to break stride at all," Blake said. "I just went and the last thing I stretched my arms out and caught the ball." I've got to say, every day we keep hearing good things about Blake. It would not surprise me at all if he was a contributor this season.
  • Blake said Anthony Gulley had a reverse that went for 40 yards or so. He also said Terrell Zachery had a touchdown that was wiped out when the officials ruled he was out of bounds. "I thought his foot dragged in," Blake said.
  • Interceptions, you ask? There were some. Harry Adams definitely had one. We think Demond Washington had the other. No clue about which quarterback did the throwing. (McFadden also said Washington recovered a fumble.)
  • Ben Tate had one carry and got stuffed by Zac Etheridge for a 1-yard loss on a draw. This would seem to tell me Tate's got that job locked up if coaches aren't worried about getting a good look at him in the scrimmage.
  • Sophomore D'Antoine Hood, a Central-Phenix graduate who recently moved from cornerback to safety, did not participate in the scrimmage. No word on why.
  • Chizik said it was important for the young players to get this kind of opportunity. In fact, he wants at least two more scrimmages before the season starts. “It’s invaluable,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to put them in these situations a minimum of three times before you play. The officials are there, the clock is running, they’re trying to get the tempo, they’re having to see it from the sideline, they’re not being coached every play.”
  • Chizik also warned not to read too much into the results: “It was an overall productive night,” he said. “You never get too excited or too down. It’s never as good as it seems and never as bad as it seems on the field. Got a lot of improvement to make but overall it was a very good first scrimmage.”


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