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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Late notes: OL Aubrey Phillips not with the team

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn offensive lineman Aubrey Phillips is not currently with the team as he continues to deal with medical issues that have kept him off the practice field, Tigers coach Gene Chizik said Wednesday.

The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Phillips, who transferred to Auburn from Florida State during the summer, has been sidelined since suffering a “non-football related episode” two days into August practice.

Chizik said Phillips is not currently in Auburn but did not say whether or not he had withdrawn from school. He did not rule out a return for the lineman.

“As we know that’s kind of been the situation since almost the first day of practice,” Chizik said. “We’ll play that by ear.”

As usual, I'll give you three orders (no, let's call them suggestions for what you should do next):
  1. Follow the blog on Twitter. I've got 246 followers. Be No. 250, or anywhere around that, and I'll give you a blog nod.
  2. Participate in Thursday's LIVE chat. I've pushed back the time to see if I can get some more participation. It starts at 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT.
  3. Read the rest of these notes ...
  • Sophomore linebacker Eltoro Freeman practiced Wednesday after briefly leaving to deal with personal issues that kept him from traveling with the team to Arkansas last weekend. Chizik did not say whether Freeman would play Saturday, calling his situation “day-by-day.” Auburn is perilously thin at linebacker. Adam Herring started instead of Freeman at weak-side linebacker against the Razorbacks and played practically the entire game, as did fellow starters Josh Bynes and Craig Stevens. Freeman, who has had a tough time with the learning curve since transferring from junior college last winter, has seven tackles in four games.
  • Wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis has worked his way back into Chizik’s good graces after an extended stay in the coach’s doghouse. He’s done so well that Auburn coaches started to take a look at him in regular offensive packages last week. “We put a lot of pressure on him,” wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said. “And I’m going to tell you, nobody put more pressure on him than coach Chizik. He had a lot of things that he had to do off the football field before he even had a chance to touch it.”
  • Pierre-Louis worked his way back onto the field in Auburn’s struggling punt return game. He had a 15-yard return against Arkansas, the Tigers’ second-longest this year, and is now competing for the starting job with Anthony Gulley, who might return after missing last week’s game with an undisclosed injury. Pierre-Louis is also working some at the “3” wide receiver position as a bubble receiver/reverse threat. “He’s got a knack for finding little holes in the defense and setting it down,” Taylor said. “He’s done that and he’s earned that. You could see him in the game this week.”
  • The coaches said injured cornerback Walt McFadden (right knee) practiced Wednesday but remains limited. “We’re asking him to do some things out there that he can do,” cornerbacks coach Phillip Lolley said. “Walt is a guy that’s been here five years now. He’s got a lot of experience. He knows what it takes on game day. He was playing one of his better games when he got hurt, when he intercepted the ball and re-aggravated his injury. He knows what it takes and will be ready one way or the other.”
  • Sophomore Demond Washington would likely start if McFadden couldn’t play, Lolley said. Washington has 15 tackles in five games. “He’s really picking the game up quicker than I expected him to pick it up at this level — all the adjustments, all the calls,” Lolley said. “The main thing I’ve been impressed with him is the mental part of it — to be able to play three positions in a defense with all the adjustments and calls. That’s tough sometimes, especially a first-year guy. He’s really, really ahead of where I thought he’d be.”
  • Chizik said the team got more physical during Wednesday's practice. "We had to roll the dice a little bit," he said. "We had to up the tempo some and do a little bit more ... a little less scout team stuff and a little more against each other. Just got to kind of bring that physical nature back to what we're doing. I feel like we weren't as physical of a football team that we needed to be this past Saturday, but again we're trying to be smart with the issues that we know depth-wise but again trying to get some fastball looks out there so that's ... we changed it up a little bit this week."
  • Chizik said he didn't have to give much of a pep talk to CB Neiko Thorpe, who was beat a couple times for big plays against Arkansas. "That's the life of a DB," said Chizik, who has coached the secondary in previous stops. "Sometimes it's feast or famine. Neiko's had a lot of good days and he had a day that wasn't as good as we would have hoped or he would have hoped. Like we say, you've got to have a short memory; that's really the life of those guys. It's different than a D-lineman. If he gets beat, nobody sees it."
  • Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said Bart Eddins has been working at guard while sophomore Jared Cooper is working almost exclusively at center on the second team. “The one thing that I learned a long time ago is that you better have a lot of centers,” Grimes said. “You can move a guard to tackle or a tackle to guard if you have to, but you can’t make a center if you get in trouble and you get two or three guys hurt who are your snappers in one game.” Starter Ryan Pugh, guard Mike Berry, Eddins and Cooper all have worked at center during practice this year.
  • Grimes said RG Byron Isom has been extremely focused since coming back from a two-game suspension. "Matter of fact, he played harder than he has at any other time this season, and I think that several of our guys did. Certainly you'd like to see that show up in the win column, but it was great to have him back and he's done a great job, worked hard since he's been back. And I think is ready to have a great second half of the season."
  • Grimes has seen progress out of the backups he was reticent to praise earlier this year. "It was awfully good for Bart to get some experience," he said. "And he stepped in and played really well in a big game. And so, the positive side to (Isom) being out there and him stepping in gives us a lot more confidence in him filling in that role. And I think he can still play center, but he's probably better at guard. Jared Cooper has made some progress, because earlier on I had him doing a number of different things. Now I've kind of been able to narrow things down for him, he's progressed at center and has done a lot of things real well. so those two guys have definitely stepped up and shown some improvement the last couple weeks."
  • Quindarius Carr made a big catch last week. Taylor side he might get more playing time this week. "When you make a play in a game, you prove your worth. We talk about building credit. Now he's got a little bit more money in the bank. He can withdraw. Before, he had to put some deposits, and he did that."
  • WR Tim Hawthorne continues to progress, but Taylor thinks starters Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery are doing so well that it's hard for him to find a spot. "If it ain't broke, I'm not going to fix it," Taylor said.
  • Running backs coach Curtis Luper said Onterio McCalebb is close to full speed after getting upended on a kick return last week and re-aggravating an ankle injury. "He was just about there til he got blip-blapped on that kick return last week," Luper said. "He'll be full strength on Saturday. He'll be ready to go. That's an element we've been missing a little bit -- that suddenness and his speed. We'll get that back Saturday."
  • Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware said he doesn't see any major personnel changes coming on his struggling kick coverage units. "There might be a few minor changes, but nothing significant," he said. "If we had somewhere to go, we would have already done it."
  • Boulware said the team hasn't considered squibbing kicks or booting them high on kickoffs. "Obviously, that’s a game-plan type of deal," he said. "Some teams do that, and sometimes it ends up hurting you more than actually returning the ball. What we try to look at here is the averaging starting field position. Some of those teams that pop it up and limit your return yardage end up giving the ball at the 40, 45. Whereas if you can cover a kick somewhat, and you can get down field and maybe keep them at the 30, 35, that’s a difference in 10 yards. That matters. We haven’t done that. We’ve done a number of different kicks, but a pooch kick has not been one of them."
  • On Arkansas' long kick return last week, Boulware said the team had seven walk-ons on the field. "The thing that stood out to us the most was that we didn’t have anybody make a play," he said. "We forced them to change directions three or four times, but nobody wanted to go get him. Everybody was kind of passive. We didn’t make a play. We have to make a play. We have to teach our guys to make a play."

1 comment:

Joe Auburn said...

I gave you a tweet to my 927 followers *grin*
Enjoy the articles and looking forward to joining today's chat!