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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Post-practice notes: OL transfer Phillips looking forward, not in the past

AUBURN, Ala. — Freshman offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips is on the Plains and, taking a page from the Mark McGwire playbook, he doesn’t want to talk about the past.

Phillips, who transferred to Auburn from Florida State this summer after a falling out with the coaching staff, met with reporters briefly Thursday after practice but didn’t have too much to say about his time in Tallahassee.

“I don’t really don’t want to talk about it anymore,” he said, shortly after head coach Gene Chizik pulled him aside for a quick debriefing. “I’ll leave the past in the past.”

The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Phillips nearly chose Auburn during the recruiting process, instead signing with Florida State in February. He soured on the Seminoles shortly after reporting, however. In previous interviews, he alleged that the FSU coaching staff “mistreated” him in his month at the school after he showed up overweight.

“I think I’m in pretty good shape,” he said. “At Florida State, I was doing everything they told me to do, no matter what the media said.” Phillips officially joined the Tigers when players reported Tuesday. So far, he’s worked with the group of newcomers during the second half of practice at left tackle, forming a solid relationship with offensive line coach Jeff Grimes.

“He’s a great coach,” Phillips said. “He’s very understanding. He takes time to tell you when you mess up. He isn’t the type of coach you can’t go to. He’ll sit down and talk to you.”

Under normal transfer rules, Phillips would have to sit out a year, but he’s filed a waiver with the NCAA seeking immediate eligibility.

“I’m not really worried about that right now,” he said. “I’m just happy to be at Auburn. If it happens, I’m cool with it. If not, I’m not worried about it.”

Some other notes after talking with coaches and players ...
  • As a quick aside, that's a picture of freshman linebacker Harris Gaston hitting the sled Thursday.
  • At least two newcomers — wide receiver DeAngelo Benton and defensive back Demond Washington — took reps during both halves of practice, although Chizik again warned not to read anything into it.“Some of the young guys just need a few extra reps,” he said. Despite being new to the program, both players are older. Benton spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy before returning home to Bastrop, La., last year to focus on qualifying academically. Washington, who was new to the veteran group today, spent the last two years at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
  • Still no word on how long Chizik will continue to have the Tigers practice in two groups.
  • Chizik sounds like he's high on Washington. "Demond has a chance to be a good football player," he said. "He's really attentive right now. Very attentive. Paying a lot of attention to the details. You can tell he really wants to be a good football player and he really wants to play right now. And that's a great thing. He's got a lot of skill. We're encouraged by him."
  • Saw the quarterbacks for a bit during the second half of practice today. They were doing a play where they roll out to their right and hit a receiver on the run. Chris Todd hit the receiver on the money every time, but freshman Tyrik Rollison bounced a few. I'd like to note that this was an extremely small sample.
  • One other interesting thing from practice: Freshmen wide receivers Anthony Gulley and Travante Stallworth were working at what looked like the Wildcat position, rolling to their right before lofting passes downfield to a streaking receiver. Gulley, especially, looked like he had a good arm. Running back Dontae Aycock also said he and wide receiver Emory Blake were working as a Wildcat quarterback.
  • Running backs coach Curtis Luper on what Aycock, a freshman, looks like so far. "Like a freshman," he said. "Like a freshman. He’s learning. He’s smart. He works hard. It’ll take us a couple of weeks to get a good feel for how he can help us this year. He's big, he's strong, he's an explosive kid. He can get from point A to point B pretty quick and he has great hands. Playing quarterback really made him really aware of what goes on on the entire field. That helps from our perspective because he doesn't need to know as much and he's capable of learning it all. I'm excited about him."
  • Chizik stopped short of saying freshman safety Daren Bates was approved by the NCAA Clearinghouse, but he said he was "encouraged." (Note: he really likes that word.) Interestingly, Phillips, Bates' teammate at Olive Branch, Miss., said Bates was in.
  • Auburn will practice in shells (helmets and shoulder pads) for the first time today, increasing the amount of contact. Chizik was not sure when the team will go with full pads. “We’ll just wait and play it by ear and see what the health of our team is,” he said. “Our days in shells and contact are pretty physical, even though we don’t take people to the ground and those things. Contact is contact, 300-pounders on 300-pounders. So it wears on you some, so we’ll just play that by ear.”
  • Chizik brushed off the fact that defensive tackle Mike Blanc had his left hand wrapped and did not participate in drills today, saying simply, "He's fine."
  • Offensive guard Mike Berry said he's slimmed down from 320 pounds to 305. Apparently not every lineman was asked to gain weight this offseason.
  • Freshman tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen told us he worked at the "3" position all summer, an H-back role that Mario Fannin and Gabe McKenzie have been playing. So far this August, he's played at the "5" spot, a position that's more like a slot receiver. Tommy Trott usually works there. "I think eventually they want to have the 3 and 5 doing the same thing and have one or two players that can do both," Lutzenkirchen said.
  • Lutzenkirchen on the pace of the offense in practice: "We ran a fast-paced offense in high school, but this just brings it to whole nother level. (Strength) coach (Kevin Yoxall) did a great job of conditioning us this summer, but it's still really didn't get us where we need to be with this offense. The main thing I'm having trouble with is the pace of it. We've been rotating every five plays, and it's just tough keeping your breath the whole time."
  • Linebacker Josh Bynes had an interesting take on the differences between former defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, who is now the head coach at Iowa State, and new defensive coordiantor Ted Roof. "Roof is the type of guy who will let us go full speed," he said. "If you miss, at least you miss full speed. Rhoads was the type who wanted us to break down and make sure we make the proper tackle. But at the same time, if you’re running full speed, you can make the other man stop his feel and everybody else is coming. It’s going to seem like 12-13 guys at the ball. As far as breaking down, it just kind of messes us up a lot. Especially with (Will) Muschamp my freshman year. He was the type, the same as Roof, like to fly and like to run full speed. And if we miss, we miss full speed, at least we’re not slowing down and stopping our feet. (Rhoads) wanted us to breakdown and make tackles. Whereas Roof wants to fly. You’re full speed, at least you’re full speed running. If you miss and run full speed, rather than going slow and breaking down to it."
  • You get the sense that Bynes likes the new way much better. "Oh yeah," he said. "You get to dive over the top of piles and things like that. When it’s a group tackle, somebody come flying full speed, it’s great because you see a lot of hats to the ball. In the spring you seen that it was a lot of people to the ball. It was more than just two or three. It was like five or six guys on the ball. And we weren’t stopping 'til the whistle blows."
  • Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has been encourage by some new guys, mentioning Nosa Eguae and Dee Ford specifically.
  • The most bizarre answer of the day came from Rocker. I asked how he likes the splitting up into two groups for practice to get more instrution time with players and he responded like I just kicked his dog. "No comment," was all he said, moving quickly on to the next question. Either Rocker prefers to have everyone on the field at the same time competing or he really dislikes me. I hope it's the former.


AUsome04 said...

Watch out Andy don't get eaten by that big guy. You do a good job getting us info from a different perspective. Seems like you have more to report than the home state media. Nice to see AU pulled out the NCAA win against bama on PS. Maybe we can sneak one agianst UGA.

AUsome04 said...

Sorry, that was supposed to be Ole Miss on the video game. WDE

AUBigCat said...

AB great job as usual!! Two questions for you: (1)Harris Gaston was 6-3 when we recruited him and the roster has him at 6-1. Which is more accurate? (2) I saw a pic with Grimes and Aubrey Phillips and Grimes looked taller which would make him around 6-6 i guess. Is he that tall?

KungFuPanda9 said...

Aubrey Phillips learning to keep his mouth shut on the subject of FSU. Very good. You want a story to stop growing, stop feeding it. The new story is how he's doing at Auburn.

Andy Bitter said...

AUBigCat, I haven't really seen Gaston up close (we're restricted to being on the sideline in our brief glimpses of practice, so it's tough to tell). I'll take a look today and see if I can get a better idea.

Phillips is a big boy. I don't know about his height, but he is a massive guy. Even without pads, he's a big'un.

I also think Phillips probably would not have kept his mouth shut if Chizik didn't pull him aside briefly before he spoke with the media. He was fairly candid the last time he spoke out about it. Smart move by Chizik. Bummer for we media types who would have liked to hear what he really wanted to say.