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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Scrimmage notes: Offense clicks with Todd

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s offensive players were hesitant to completely credit their success in Saturday’s scrimmage to the fact that senior Chris Todd was named the quarterback two days earlier.

It certainly didn’t hurt.

The Tigers’ first-team offense was crisper in its second scrimmage, forgetting a disjointed performance earlier this week and scoring three of Auburn’s five touchdowns Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium as the team wrapped up the first part of August camp.

“I wouldn’t say it was just because of Chris,” running back Mario Fannin said. “It was more we understood what we needed to do today.”

Nevertheless, Todd was sharp, completing almost every pass he threw in the closed scrimmage, according to teammates, and connecting with Montez Billings for a touchdown.

“The more snaps and the more experience he gets with this offense, the better we’re going to get,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “The fact that you can keep a guy out there multiple reps at a time and the same drive, that’s big. Your linemen get used to him, the backs will get used to him and the receivers will get down their timing with the throws.”

Auburn split reps among its five quarterbacks almost evenly last Tuesday and struggled to find a rhythm offensively, committing three or four turnovers.

With Todd getting all the first-team snaps Saturday and leading the team on five or six series, the Tigers had no turnovers and only two penalties, one of which was a hold called against the second group.

“You kind of get in a rhythm and stuff,” Todd said. “Really, I think the biggest thing is getting the timing down with our receivers. I thought we did some good stuff today. There’s still stuff we can improve on.”

Some other notes ...
  • Running backs Ben Tate and Eric Smith had touchdown runs, according to teammates.
  • So did Kodi Burns, who worked as a receiver two days after making the move from quarterback. He scored his touchdown on a long run out of the Wildcat formation, holding off two defenders as he crossed the goal line. “Kodi did a great job today,” head coach Gene Chizik. “He played receiver. He had a nice run out of Wildcat one time. He is kind of meshing into his new role very well. As we talked the other day, (he has) a great, great spirit and a great attitude. He’ll just continue to get better.”
  • “It’s Kodi,” cornerback Walt McFadden said. “You can’t count him out.”
  • Bonus Trooper Taylor quote on Kodi: "There's some fundamental things he needs to do really well to get his arm over and not get jammed up and things like that. So it's pretty impressive to see Kodi do what he does out there without very much reps. He has to stay late and come early to work on the releases and things like that because he's still doing the things with the quarterbacks, so to get his timing, he has to come early. And you've got to appreciate that about a kid like that."
  • Kodi is full contact by the way: "He was live," Taylor said. "Whether he had orange on or not, it didn't matter. He had orange on but we told him, he's live. Because that's the only way we're going to find out about him is for him to be live. He was live all day."
  • Freshman quarterback Tyrik Rollison got plenty of work with the second team, completing a touchdown pass as coaches continued to evaluate him in the competition for the backup spot. “He did a solid job,” Malzahn said. “He held the ball a little long a couple times, but that comes from experience. In high school, you can get away with that. We’ll get that corrected.”
  • Junior quarterback Neil Caudle worked some in a two-minute drill near the end, Chizik said. Freshman Clint Moseley did not get any snaps.
  • Auburn’s coaches informed three walk-ons during a team function Friday night that they would be placed on scholarship this season — punter Clinton Durst, holder Clayton Crofoot and wide receiver John Cubelic. “Every year, whenever we have opportunities to do that with our walk-ons, we’ll always reward them for playing a tough sport for free,” Chizik said. “That’s really hard to do. Whenever I can reward those guys with scholarships available, the ones who deserve it, (I will).”
  • Durst, a senior, averaged 42.1 yards per punt last year, ranking 26th nationally. He was a second-team preseason All-SEC pick by the media in July. He briefly left the team last winter in an attempt to force coaches to make a decision on his scholarship status but returned for spring practice. He is currently battling Ryan Shoemaker, another scholarship player, for the starting punting job.
  • Crofoot, a senior, was the holder in all 12 of Auburn’s games last season. Cubelic, a junior, has played in one game during his career.
  • Auburn now has 78 players on scholarship for 2009, seven under the NCAA maximum of 85.
  • Freshman safety Daren Bates stood out to coaches for the second straight time in a scrimmage setting and might challenge for playing time on the field. “I don’t want to go out on that limb yet, but we’re certainly looking to give him every opportunity to be on the field,” Chizik said. “It will be up to him, but what he showed us right now, I think he has a legitimate chance to get on the field if he’ll continue to grow as a player.” Plenty more good stuff on Bates that I'd like to hold onto for a feature story sometime next week.
  • Chizik also singled out cornerback Demond Washington, a junior college transfer, as having a good night.
  • Linebacker Eltoro Freeman (hand) did not participate in the scrimmage. Auburn used Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and true freshman Jonathan Evans as its starting linebackers. “But we mixed and matched at every position,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said, “because getting reps with the second and third team is not the same as the first.”
  • Mario Fannin worked exclusively as an H-back.
  • The scrimmage marked the end of the first part of August camp for the Tigers, who had 11 straight days of practices that included three two-a-days and two scrimmages. The team will have meetings the next two days but not practice, taking Sunday off for Fan Day and Monday off for the first day of classes. “They are due,” Chizik said. “Eleven straight days is really tough. They are ready to get two days off — they need it and they deserve because they’ve worked really hard to this point.”


AUsome04 said...

Great job Andy. LB depth is scary. I can't believe Petey Smith passed up a shot at becoming a star early to go up to bama and not even have a scolarship or playing time until January. Atchinson bailed on us too. Both of those guys would've been great to have but it's good to have the guys we have. Evans is getting a great chance to do something special. Andy has Harris Gaston gotten back on the field?

blu3tick said...

Glad to see Auburn is putting the pieces together... Arkansas is still struggling to put it all together, but we're getting it. The SEC is going to be stacked with talented players and coaches for the next several years...

I'm looking forward to the Auburn/Arkansas game tho... I love Gus and know it will be a good one...

Off subject - but wouldn't it be cool if Auburn had this big eagle on their helmet? Like the Pontiac FireBird?!? lol Not like Philly eagle wings.. but much cooler... lol

Anyways.. Good luck and go hogs!

Andy Bitter said...

Gaston was back at practice on Friday.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog Andy! What is the report on Eltoro Freeman? Will he be ready for the season opener... or maybe sooner? WAR EAGLE!!!

Andy Bitter said...

I assume Eltoro will be fine. It's not like it was a knee injury or anything. The coaches were just being careful with him this far away from the regular season.