War Eagle Extra has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 4 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Late practice notes: WR Hawthorne out of the tub

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor has a favorite saying for players nursing injuries: “You can’t make the club in the tub.”

“I definitely heard that phrase a billion times,” said wideout
Tim Hawthorne, who recently returned to action after breaking his right foot during the summer. “Probably thought about tatting it on my forearm just to remind me. But it’s the truth. You can’t make the club in the tub. You have to go out there and prove yourself like everyone else.”

That’s now Hawthorne’s aim after he missed all of the preseason and the first two games. The junior started against West Virginia last Saturday, although he didn’t make a catch. Still, Trooper liked what he saw.

“His awareness on that football field was really special, and he deserved and earned the right to start,” Taylor said. “He worked his butt off and I wanted to send a message to reward guys for overcoming injuries.”

Hawthorne, who was expected to be one of the Tigers’ primary receiving threats, has had his share of hurdles getting on the field. He missed nearly all of spring practice in 2007 after injuries suffered in a car accident that killed a friend. The next spring, he broke his arm.

This summer he heard a pop in his foot after making a cut during drills. Since then, he’s worked his way back, doing plenty of hydrotherapy (not a tub) while helping out during practices any way he could, whether it was hitting receivers with blocking pads or instructing the Tigers’ inexperienced players.

Hawthorne’s aggressive rehab worked. He was not expected back until Week 6 against Arkansas. He instead returned by Week 3.

His role remains undefined.
Darvin Adams has thrived in his absence, while Terrell Zachery has done well as the other starting receiver. As a result, Hawthorne has moved around, taking reps at all three of Auburn’s receiver positions, just trying to find a role.

“I’m really still trying to find that out,” he said. “I’m taking it as it comes.”

Three things of note:

  1. Follow the blog on Twitter. Seriously, do it. You won't regret it.
  2. Join my LIVE chat Thursday about Auburn football. It starts at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT.
  3. Read the rest of these notes from Wednesday's practice.
  • Gabe McKenzie is being given a look on defense again after playing sparingly as a tight end the first few weeks of the season. “We’ve got to be better at third down,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “I’m not saying that’s the answer but we’re just looking at some things that could be possibilities.” The 6-foot-5, 252-pound McKenzie, a tight end his entire career, moved to defensive end at the beginning of last season. He made 11 tackles (2½ for a loss) and returned an interception for a touchdown against LSU in the season’s fourth week. But a lack of playing time plus Tommy Trott’s knee injury in November prompted a move back to tight end, where he caught three passes for 33 yards. At the time, McKenzie said being a tight end was what he was “born to do.”
  • Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was hopeful that McKenzie would get a few snaps against Ball State on Saturday. “If everything goes well,” Rocker said. “If he catches on to what we’re doing this week.”
  • Sophomore linebacker Spencer Pybus has returned to practice after missing nearly all of August because of a concussion, linebacker Craig Stevens said. “I’ve been waiting for him to come back,” Stevens said. “I guess he had a really serious concussion, but it’s good to have him back now.” The 6-foot, 215-pound Pybus earned All-SEC freshman honors after playing in all 12 games last season, getting in on 14 tackles, one of which was for a loss. He provides depth in a thin Auburn linebacking corps, which has primarily used four players in the first three games — Stevens, Josh Bynes, Eltoro Freeman and Adam Herring.
  • Chizik didn't sound confident that Pybus will play this week. He also said DE Antoine Carter is still day-to-day.
  • Here's Rocker's take on Carter: "The biggest concern is just, hey, throw him out there and getting those nerves out of you. He's been repping the last couple of weeks, but it's a little bit different when you go over there (game). We just need to make sure he's in the right frame of mind. I made it clear to him, just do what you're supposed to do. I'm not asking you go to out there and make some great impact. Just do what you need to do to get well, feel good, feel comfortable, get adjusted back into the game."
  • DE Dee Ford spelled Antonio Coleman for a while when AC went down with an injury Saturday against West Virginia. Rocker thought was strange because of a conversation he had with Ford while eating dinner prior to the game. "The conversation was, 'You've played two games, Ford, and you're no longer a freshman,'" Rocker said. "'I've dealt with you two weeks now. I've been on you, trying to teach you how to play. Now it's time to play.' I was proud of him. I think he got a little more sense of confidence about himself. Hey, sticking him in a game like that ... In the same breath I'm saying, 'OK, do well, do well.' And you're also hoping he doesn't screw this up with a big mistake that can hurt the defense in that type of game. But he was in there, he played hard, and he did what he was supposed to do. Now it's a matter of keep getting better and better. Like I've said before, twos are going to be very important on this team."
  • Chizik commented on the team's locker room upgrades: "We’re are very demanding of our guys and what we ask them to do. In return we want to give them the best we can give them of everything. Our administration has been great on moving forward with different projects that we think are going to really upgrade the whole football facility. We thought the locker room would be a great place to start for gameday and I think the players were really excited the first time we walked in there. It was a great improvement.We’re just taking different sections that we feel will make a difference and our goal is to continue to upgrade and provide them the best we can give them."
  • Trooper sounded like he was pretty demanding of Adams in the offseason. "I was really tough on Darvin going into it, but he just continued to fight," Taylor said. "That’s what makes me so proud of the kid because he had every reason to fold the tent because I was really tough on him. Not just him, but all of them, but I was a little extra hard on him because he had that aura about him that he was good, and that he was the man. You try to break that down. But it’s good that he stuck with it."
  • Taylor on Anthony Gulley emerging as a reliable punt returner: 'It’s helped him a bunch. Obviously, we were searching for a returner, and he had been telling me he could do it. I didn’t want to start with a freshman back there to start the season. But when he got his opportunity, he made plays. You can tell he played baseball."
  • Running backs coach Curtis Luper commented on the running game hitting its first bit of adversity this season. "That was a first for us," he said. "I was on the headphones with Ben (Tate) and he said, 'Well, Onterio McCalebb's a little dejected because they've got eight men up there and he's not having the success he's accustomed to having.' I had Ben talking to him and I was talking to him. It was just like an SEC game. You may get 20 carries, you may get 100 yards, but on that 21st carry when that hole opens, we've got to be in a position to go 60 and get it done. I was proud of them just because of the elements. We stood up in the elements and we didn't turn the football over -- the ball didn't go on the ground. That was my concern. I wasn't concerned with them stuffing us on the run because I knew we could throw it, too."
  • Luper has been very pleased with what Eric Smith has added to the offense since he returned to the team following his August arrest. "Eric is big for us because he's a very intelligent football player, so we can do lots of things with him," Luper said. "He can babysit Onterio on the field. There are some times that Onterio needs some help with things because he's never played college football before. He's versatile. He can make plays in the passing game for us. He's a great pass protector. He can run the football. He's a coach's dream because he's a safety net for us. If there's ever an issue, I can just say, 'Eric, go,' and he'll take care of it. He's still a load. He's tough to tackle because he is 230 pounds and he runs behind his pads very well. He has great feet for a big guy -- deceptively fast, I guess. He looked fast on that first vertical ball he caught. He's earned the right to carry the football."
  • Luper on Tate: "He's done every single thing I've asked him to do in eight months. I know that he wants to be successful, he wants to move on and play at the next level, he's already graduated from college, so all he really has now is football. Ben is like the first senior that I've coached that I didn't coach as a junior. That's been new for me, but he's been all-in from Day 1."

1 comment:

ron mexico said...

Good to hear about McKensie going back to defense. I'd put my money on him playing D-tackle some if not most of the time. Chizik loves to play the undersized guys. If we had enough depth i imagine he would want goggans to play inside as well.