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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Post-practice notes: Auburn still not in pads

AUBURN, Ala. — Under NCAA rules, Auburn could have practiced in full pads for the first time Sunday. The Tigers didn’t, pushing it back one more day in order to keep everybody fresh.

“Conventional wisdom would say today’s the first day you’re allowed to go in full pads,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “That doesn’t mean you have to. We’re going to do what’s right for our team and practice smart and play it by ear. Certainly, our situation is probably different than a lot because of depth.”

The Tigers were especially low at linebacker Sunday. Spencer Pybus, Adam Herring and Harris Gaston, three of Auburn’s seven scholarship linebackers, did not participate in practice for various reasons. Other new spectators included safety T’Sharvan Bell, who had a wrap on his right knee, defensive end Dee Ford and offensive lineman Rudy Odom.

Monitoring depth will be an ongoing situation for Auburn, which is low on scholarship players but still has 29 practices this preseason to get ready for the Sept. 5 opener against Louisiana Tech.

Although the team practiced in shells Sunday, Chizik said that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a physical session.

“You don’t tackle to the ground and things of that nature,” Chizik said, “but for all intents and purposes, to the players, it’s like full pads.”

“The only difference is you have to be smarter when it comes to the contact aspect because you’re not protected really,” running back Mario Fannin said. “You still have to go out there and play hard and execute well and know your blocking and get a hand on it. It’s more of just working with your hands and feet rather than going in for a big collision.”

Auburn has two practices today, with a morning and evening session. One will be in full pads. The team scrimmages for the first time Tuesday.

'Some other notes from Sunday ...
  • Wide receiver Montez Billings has been able to practice with the team but is still trying to clear up an academic issue that prevented him from participating last spring. The senior, who caught 24 passes last year, tops among returning receivers, provided little clarity to the situation in his first meeting with reporters since the 2008 season, simply saying, “It’s still ongoing.” Chizik said last month that Billings would play this fall but added that there was still an ongoing academic issue at hand. Complicating matters is the fact that Billings graduated last spring. If that makes any sense to you, you might be the only one.
  • Freshman Robert Cooper was told he would be able to compete at quarterback when he was awarded a full scholarship this summer. He’s a tight end now and will be in the foreseeable future. “I guess I was kind of more just gravitating toward it,” Cooper said. “I have a chance to play there earlier.” The Mobile, Ala., product practiced at quarterback and tight end after arriving for summer workouts, but offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn approached him early and asked him to move to tight end. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Cooper played wide receiver and safety as a junior at Daphne High and quarterback his senior season, so tight end is something new. “Tight end is more of a physical game,” he said. “It’s been fun. I like the physicality of it. I also like to go out and catch a pass every now and then.”
  • Chizik said junior Zach Clayton, who has worked at all positions on the defensive line, had an especially good practice Sunday. “Every time I looked up today he was somewhere around the ball,” Chizik said. “Great effort guy. Really, really good effort.”
  • WR DeAngelo Benton was back on the field after missing Saturday’s practice with a right hand injury. He did not have his hand in a brace Sunday.
  • Freshman OL Aubrey Phillips, who had a non-football medical episode late last week, did not practice. But he did appear on the sideline during a closed portion of practice, Chizik said.
  • Fannin confirmed that LB Eltoro Freeman did in fact catch him with a pretty good hit during Saturday's practice. "Yeah. He came in and I didn’t see him and he got a good shot on me," Fannin said. "I’ll be ready for him next time. Only reason he got me, our linemen kind of missed a block and I guess he didn’t look up to him. I cut in the hole and at the last second he was there. ... I want him to practice with me and hit me and get me ready for the game and I’ll be ready for anybody else who wants to come and try to lay a hit on me."
  • Freeman reminds Fannin of a former Auburn player: "He kind of remind me of Tray Blackmon because he shoots the hole and he’s fast and every time he comes he’s coming full speed," Fannin said. I'm sure Auburn fans will ask, is that a good or a bad thing?
  • PK Wes Byrum had plenty of interesting things to say after practice, which I'd like to put in a feature story down the line. I thought one thing was very interesting. Auburn has a set of very narrow Arena League field goal posts behind the regular goal posts so kickers can focus on a small target. "Last year we all got together, because I talk a lot to John Vaughn, and he said the Arena uprights are crazy," Byrum said. "So I asked the equipment guys if they could get us a pair, and they brought them out for us and that's been really great, to work on a smaller target, an aim small, miss small type of deal. It's been a lot nicer and stuff to warm up on those."
  • Byrum said he's at the top of the depth chart right now. So is long snapper Josh Harris.
  • Byrum also said PK Chandler Brooks, one of his chief competitors, is resting because of a quad injury right now.
  • And to finish, one more quote from Chizik about his philosophy about two-a-days and pacing the team that didn't make it into tomorrow's notebook: "I really feel like our football team is trying hard. It comes to the point where it’s the point of no return sometimes. You have to push them. It’s the mental toughness part you’ve got to make sure you’re addressing. Yet, I don’t want to look up four days from now and we’re playing with guys that aren’t going to play on Saturday and then all of a sudden you get them back a week before the game and you’re expecting to play them and they’ve lost about 200 reps. Our goal every day at the end of practice is to make sure they push through a tough practice and make sure they’re getting better and doing what we ask them to do, yet lining up with them the next day."

1 comment:

AUBigCat said...

As long as Da Bull reminds us of Blackmon ON the field, everything will be fine.