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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grimes, Rocker take different approaches to playing time

AUBURN, Ala. — If everything goes to plan Saturday against Louisiana Tech, Auburn will use as few offensive linemen as it can and as many defensive linemen as it has on the two-deep.

Offensive line coach
Jeff Grimes said if it’s a competitive game, he would prefer to keep his veteran starting five in tact, rather than dipping into his relatively inexperienced backups.

His top three reserves, in no particular order, are oft-injured center
Bart Eddins, freshman guard John Sullen and converted tight end Vance Smith at tackle.

“Offensive line is sometimes musical chairs,” Grimes said. “You might move someone else over in order to get the next best guy in the game, but then you might feel like this guy can handle a defensive end so you don’t want to move this guard. There could be some shuffling going on based on the situation.”

Despite having two true freshmen (
Nosa Eguae, Dee Ford) as his backup ends, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker is taking an opposite tack. Asked who he would like to get on the field, he didn’t leave any wiggle room.

“All of them,” he said. “Everybody plays. I don’t where, I just know everybody plays. The biggest thing is, just play hard. Play hard and do your best.”

Rocker doesn’t want to give his youngsters a short leash, either.

“You don’t want the kid all of a sudden, if he makes a mistake, to get frustrated and lose his spirit — that’s the thing I don’t want,” Rocker said. “But I keep stressing, ‘You’re going to be fine. Just keep battling and battling and we’ll see what happens.’”

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  • That picture, by Todd Van Emst, is of the new banners hanging on the back of the scoreboards at Jordan-Hare Stadium. There are banners of Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Tracy Rocker in the south end zone. On the north side will be banners of Zeke Smith and Carlos Rogers.
  • Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said a while ago he would like to have six receivers in his playing rotation. Right now, he’d take six healthy ones. Taylor cited a team policy about not going into specifics on injuries, but he said almost every one of his receivers is slowed by something right now. “I’d be a little bit more excited if I had all my bullets going into this game that were 100 percent,” he said. “I’m sure everybody in the country is going through the same things. When you come out of two-a-days there’s going to be some nicks and bruises and things like that, that slow skill guys down a little bit.”
  • Taylor didn't sound so convinced that projected starter Darvin Adams would play. “I’m hoping to see him out there,” Taylor said, not giving specifics. “Keeping my fingers crossed.”
  • Taylor said the lack of bodies might mean true freshmen Anthony Gulley and Travante Stallworth will see some action Saturday. He’ll have a better idea of who will play after talking to the trainer Friday. “Right now I’ll be honest, I don’t know,” Taylor said.
  • One last thought from Taylor on the Final 6: "I’m praying for the Final Six. I’m ready to put that six out there and go to work with them. This weekend will say a lot on who’s tough enough to step up when you’re sore or you have a nagging injury coming out of camp. That to me is as important as a guy knowing what to do. How tough is he? Anybody who isn’t playing in pain probably hasn’t gone through a tough two-a-days and probably not ready for this league."
  • Taylor on what he's looking for Saturday: "I think going into this game, that’s the thing I’m looking forward to. See who’s going to react in a positive way as far as execution and just being calm under pressure. It’ll be pressure, I promise you, with all those fans in the stands. Most of them probably played in front of 1,000 or 2,000 fans at their high school and now they’re getting ready to walk in front of (90,000). That’s going to be exciting for them."
  • Trooper defined what his Assistant (to the) Head Coach title means: "A lot of it is checks and balances. Coach and I sit down and we go over a lot of the different details with game management as far as two-minute drills, substitutions. Anything that has come up. We’ve watched tape on the final minutes of a half or end of a game going over all the different scenarios that have come up in my past, his past, other guys on the staff’s past, a lot of it is just that deal. Obviously, I have a lot to do with recruiting, making sure that we’re getting all that lined up. We can’t slack on that. There will be recruits here this weekend and we have to make sure there at the right places with the right people and they have their time with coach. There’s a lot going into it. That’s real important for us to make sure we manage all of it. Winning and losing is the bottom line but there’s a lot that goes on on game day outside of the X’s and O’s."
  • He also said he was swayed by the fact that Chizik was only going to have one assistant head coach. "You look at most staffs, there’s an assistant to this, there’s an assistant to that, an assistant head coach this," Taylor said. "There’s only one, and that’s me. It helps me define my responsibility, it’s clear-cut, there’s no question and there’s no gray area with the rest of the guys on the staff. They know when he’s not here, those responsibilities fall on me, and that’s big."
  • To the best of head coach Gene Chizik’s knowledge, Auburn and Louisiana Tech will not shake hands before the game as part of the American Football Coaches Association’s effort to promote sportsmanship. Some coaches, particularly Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, have expressed concerns that the timing of the hand shake could lead to altercations between a field full of overly-excited football players. Chizik didn’t have an opinion either way but had concerns that a potential hand shake could disrupt important pre-game rituals. “I’m sure that logistically the issues of timing and getting the game started and just all of that, the general public wouldn’t really take into consideration,” he said. “Those things do occur, especially when you have great traditions before the game, when you run out, all the things that happen. I’m sure it’s not just as easy as you walking out and doing a hand shake.”
  • Redshirt freshman DL Cam Henderson wasn’t on the two-deep released Tuesday and it doesn’t appear that he’ll play Saturday. “He’s not quite there yet,” Rocker said. “Just ain’t there yet. I feel good with what we’ve got.”
  • Grimes said it’s too early to tell if freshman Andre Harris will redshirt this year. Sullen, a fellow freshman, will at the very least play on special teams.
  • Grimes on how he grades film: "Yeah. We take a look at how many times they knock a guy down and how many times they commit one of the egregious errors that you certainly don't want to see -- a sack, a pressure where the quarterback gets hit, a penalty, a missed assignment. So the biggest thing for me, a numerical grade gives you a little bit of information, but if you want to know how physical a guy is being, you look at how many times he's putting his man on the ground. If you want to know how consistent a guy is being, you look at how many times he commits one of those really big negatives that can hurt the team. Those are the biggest things I look at."
  • Chizik said the team will have a shorter practice today that’s heavy on situations and special teams. “It’s a polish day on all sides of the ball,” he said.
  • Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen said he's started a true freshman before, so he knows what he might be in store for with freshman Daren Bates Saturday. "They have their peaks and highs – highs and lows – and it’s tough," he said. "The first game you always want to be good but here’s it’s different because my first game I was in front of maybe 55,000 and his will be in front of about 90-plus. It’s a different atmosphere. So for my young guys and some of the other young guys, we just hope they don’t go deer-in-the-headlights."
  • Thigpen said T'Sharvan Bell, who has been slowed by a knee injury in the preseason, could play Saturday. No word on Phenix City's D'Antoine Hood (high-ankle sprain).
  • Chizik said he's done Tiger Walk before. "I did. It's pretty amazing," he said. He did not say whether or not this group of assistants will do it. "I can't tell you something they don't even know yet," he said.
  • Several coaches commented on the atmosphere at Jordan-Hare Stadium and around Auburn during game week. Here's a sampling:
  • Thigpen: "I’ve seen it on videos and people just say you can’t fathom it. You just have to live it. I’m as excited as any of you guys because at least you guys have done it. Every day is a different experience with me. They tell me Wednesdays you can drive around and just see RVs all over the place, so I’m thinking once I leave here I’ll just drive around and see how much more crowded the city gets as the week goes on."
  • Rocker: "It's been a long time since I've stood on the home sideline. I've been away at previous universities standing on the visitor's side. It's a great moment. I still pinch myself. I still remember the day I set foot here as a freshman. And now I'm still living the -- I don't know if it's a dream, but it's something special. Who knew? It happens, and it's a great moment. I'm looking forward to it, but everyone keeps asking, 'Are you looking forward to it?' It's not so much me. My deal is, if the players are excited, I'm excited. I know what Tiger Walk is. I know what the spirit and the passion is all about. Tiger Walk has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the spirit of those players and the focus of the game."
  • Rocker on if he's told his players about it: "I haven't told anybody anything. I'm going to let them figure it out for themselves. I just think the most unique thing I keep reminding them that, 'You going to get in that stadium and you going to be in awe about the passion, how loud it is, how unique and all the colors, seeing that eagle fly.' We go to a lot of different venues as a coach, but now you get to be the home coach and you get to see how your home performs."


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