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Monday, March 29, 2010

Full practice notes: A Shon Coleman update

Here's a full rundown from today's post-practice interviews:
  • We've got some more news about Auburn football signee Shon Coleman, thanks to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Olive Branch High athletics director Pete Cordelli told the newspaper that Coleman had a lump removed from his head shortly after spring break. It was determined to be malignant late last week and Coleman began treatment last weekend.
  • Running back Onterio McCalebb may have some added bulk during winter workouts, but running backs coach Curtis Luper said the sophomore needs to adjust his running style to make a major step forward next season. “He still needs to learn how to play running back in this league,” Luper said. “He’s so fast that he wants to run east and west. The emphasis for him this spring is to get him north and south — to get him more vertical with the football.”
  • McCalebb ran for 565 yards last year but battled an ankle injury that limited his carries late in the season. He gained 15 pounds this offseason, putting him at 175, which Luper doesn’t think will affect McCalebb’s speed but will help his endurance. “For him, it’s his health,” Luper said. “If he’s healthy, he can help us. If he’s not, he’s a detriment to us offense. If he’s stronger, he’s more apt to be healthy.”
  • Luper said Mario Fannin's not necessarily the No. 1 running back, but he goes first in drills. "He's comfortable there," Luper said. "He's getting more comfortable there every day. In this offense, it's just a matter of getting comfortable with the tempo and everything. The whole thought process it expedited because we go so fast. Once he gets comfortable, then we'll be able to see the talents god has given him."
  • Fannin feels like his fumbling problems -- which basically stem from the South Florida game his freshman year -- are well behind him. "Yeah. That's funny. A lot of people, they remember the South Florida game," he said. "They don't understand, that was my freshman year. That was my first game in a college-like atmosphere. Me playing quarterback out of high school, I really didn't have any problems with the ball. I've grown from it, I know my mistakes, that's something I've always tried to work on since that game. I think I've gotten a lot better at it; a lot of people just have that stuck in their minds. But you've just got to overlook it and just keep working hard and understand that happens, that's football, you've just got to overcome it."
  • To combat the problem, Fannin has worked on securing the ball high and tight. It's something he says he never had to think about in high school. "In high school, defenders don't tackle the ball, they tackle you," he said. "Here in college, defenders are taught to tackle the ball. I understand that more, now it's more high and tight. Two hands on the ball in traffic and things of that nature."
  • Auburn’s punt returners have done a variety of bizarre drills this spring. One required the player to let the ball hit him in the facemask instead of catching it. “It helps you get your footwork right and getting up under the ball and getting your letters right,” cornerback Demond Washington said. “You’ve got to get up under it. That’s probably the hardest part — knowing where the ball’s going to fall and getting up under it.” The Tigers did another drill Monday where they caught the ball with one hand. “All the guys called me ‘Little Hands’ like I was in the Burger King commercial,” Washington said. “I couldn’t catch it like that. That was pretty tough.”
  • Chizik thinks Washington's brief stint at safety helped him learn more about the cornerback spot. "I think that it gave him an overall better grasp of what we're trying to do both at safety and at corner," Chizik said. "It bridges the gap on anything you don't know when you play both, because you really understand how that fits more with the corner position. I think anytime you can cross-train somebody at two positions, it can do nothing but help, provided that they're mentally ready for that. And he was."
  • After sitting out a year following his transfer from Minnesota, Ralph Spry has made strides this spring. “I think that he knows that he can play now, where before he knew he was going to be scout team,” wide receives coach Trooper Taylor said. “There was no light at the end of the tunnel.” Spry, the son of Auburn track and field coach Ralph Spry, played in 12 games as a freshman with the Gophers in 2008. He caught 23 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. “(He’s) already had college experience before he transferred here,” Taylor said. “So there’s no substitute for that.”
  • Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen was not dressed out Monday. Chizik said he was dinged up. Running back Dontae Aycock was ill and did not practice.
  • Chizik cited a need to shore up the run defense early this spring. "Stopping the run, (we're) getting knocked off the ball some. ... We've just got a long way to go defensively in so many areas. Not that we don't offensively, but you know, we've got to, again, as I said earlier, we've got to address the running game and the stoppage of the run, which is a high, high priority for us right now. And we let some runs get out Saturday that we need to corral back in, but overall, again, the effort was really good, and they're really trying to learn and improve. And I think that's huge."

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