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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tigers get specific during Saturday scrimmage

AUBURN, Ala. — There were no winners or losers in Auburn’s scrimmage Saturday, no convoluted scoring system, no definitive standout players.

Instead the Tigers focused on procedural matters during their third, and perhaps final, scrimmage of the preseason, a minimal contact workout at Jordan-Hare Stadium during which the team practiced specific game situations while trying to hone the communication between staff and players.

“There wasn’t a winner,” cornerback Walt McFadden said. “Everybody had the mindset of knowing what to do. It was a mental thing — trying to get in the right spots.”

Auburn coaches touted the team’s physical nature in its first two scrimmages but pulled back the reins Saturday, instructing players to swarm to the ball but not tackle to the ground.

The focus instead shifted to situational work, the majority of which came against a scout-team look. Head coach Gene Chizik mapped out a variety of scenarios for his team to handle, ranging from standard two-minute drills to what to do when a player goes down with an injury.

“When that comes up in a game, everybody will be calm and relaxed because we’ve done it before,” said quarterback Chris Todd, who got most of the reps Saturday.

Some other notes from the closed scrimmage ...
  • The offense worked on hurry-up situations. I'm sure everyone is saying, "Don't they hurry up all the time?" Yes, but this is different. “I think you’ve just got to be aware of the clock and the situations that present (themselves) — if there’s a dead ball, if it’s not a dead ball, how many timeouts,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “That’s the biggest difference. But I think it does help us. We’re used to going fast anyways, so I’d like to think there was not as much panic as there is with some other offenses.”
  • Interesting comment from Chizik today about adding plenty of end-game scenarios because he expects Auburn to play in plenty of close games. “Our thing right now, when we win games at Auburn, it’s going to come down to the last two minutes, and that’s the way we’ve got to feel,” he said. “We’ve got to be very efficient at those parts of the game and we’ve got a long way to go in that direction.”
  • Defensively, the team focused on boundary awareness and seamlessly getting different personnel on the field. “All those things that could come up,” defensive coordinator Ted Roof said. “Substitution things, as a coaching staff, the communication on the headsets, who’s responsible for what. Charting this, charting that, just all the things that go into game day that make up a successful performance.”
  • Chizik, and later Malzahn and Roof, said the depth chart is about 90 percent settled.
  • Chizik on the scrimmage overall: “We really got a great feel of what we weren’t doing well, which it was very apparent out there that there was a lot that we weren’t doing well,” he said, not going into specifics. “But (we’re creating) teaching tools and I think we got out of today what we wanted.”
  • Auburn only plans to have two assistant coaches in the press box this year -- running backs coach Curtis Luper and Phillip Lolley. They were there Saturday, while Chizik, Malzahn, Roof, safeties coach Tommy Thigpen, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor and special teams coordinator Jay Boulware were on the sideline.
  • Malzahn has never coached from the box in his career. “That’s what I’m used to,” he said. “I like being there with that quarterback and looking him in the eye. A lot of times you can really read your quarterback and, for that matter, read your whole offense when you’re down there. And as long as our coaches do our job, we can be very efficient with that.”
  • Here are some facts we gleaned from the players and coaches afterward:
  • Running back Onterio McCalebb had a long run that didn’t go for a touchdown.
  • Todd threw a long touchdown pass. He also led the team on a nice two-minute drill, according to McFadden.
  • Freshman wide receiver Anthony Gulley made a one-handed catch. “It was so pretty,” McFadden said. “It was like a post-corner ball. Todd put it out there thinking Gulley was 6-foot-7. He reached out with those long arms and made a great play. It looked like two fingers.”
  • Chizik didn't really give a definitive answer on if the team is closer to making a decision on whether or not to burn the redshit on freshman quarterback Tyrik Rollison. “That’s a really delicate situation,” Chizik said. ‘The final thought analysis is, is he ready to help us win games right now? That’s what it’s going to be. Not just him, that’s any redshirt. Where can he contribute right now to help us win games? If we feel there’s two guys or three guys in front of him, obviously he’s not ready to help us win games right now. That’s what’s going to be our measuring stick. That’s for every position, not just quarterback.”


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