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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Practice notes: Daren Bates to play some linebacker

Auburn coach Gene Chizik confirmed that Daren Bates, who earned SEC All-Freshman recognition last year after starting all 13 games at safety, will play some linebacker this season once he returns to full strength from offseason shoulder surgery.

“We’ve talked to him about playing some linebacker and really almost more of a nickel position,” Chizik said. “We played him in linebacker-ish type roles when we dropped him down in the box and him helping us on the run.

“It’s not really foreign to him. It’s more of a nickel mentality out there. When he’s ready to come back and be full-speed, he’ll be able to do both.”

The Tigers have a trio of veteran secondary members returning from injury — Zac Etheridge (neck), Aairon Savage (Achilles’) and Mike McNeil (leg) — making the move possible.

Bates will compete for playing time among a group of returning linebackers that include Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and Eltoro Freeman.

“We’re going to get him out on the field whether he starts or not,” Bynes said. “It doesn’t matter. All four of us are going to go out there and compete and just play football.”

Here are some other notes and quotes from Auburn's first day of spring practice:
  • The Bates move was done with quickness in mind. Chizik wants to get faster across the defensive side of the ball. "It's first and foremost to kind of go within our speed movement we're trying to incorporate," he said. "We're trying to get as much speed as we can on the field right now. Sometimes that involves moving guys closer to the line of scrimmage. Sometimes linebackers become defensive ends, sometimes safeties become linebackers, and things of that nature. We're always into the speed movement." Does that mean Auburn might give more 3-4 defensive looks this year. Chizik thinks so.
  • Bynes had good things to say about fellow linebacker Freeman, who at times was overwhelmed by the speed of the game last spring: "He’s looking a lot better. I ask him something and he’ll tell me exactly where he’s supposed to go and what formation. He’s getting it down pat. After every play I ask him, ‘Toro, if this play happens, what you got?’ He’ll tell me right then and there. He doesn’t wait. This is the best I’ve seen him catch onto anything since we’ve been here. He’s becoming a better player."
  • Chizik's general thoughts on the first day: "I thought it was a good opening day. I thought there was a lot of great effort out there. We're very rusty in a lot of ways but obviously it's easier your second time around. The expectations and everybody knowing where they're supposed to be at practice and the tempo of practice and things of that nature obviously are easy and were better today. We're looking for consistency in our practices in terms of not only just effort but execution on all sides of the ball."
  • Several players were spectators on the first day of practice and may be that way for most of the spring. Left guard Mike Berry dressed out but did light work on the first day because of an undisclosed injury. When he wasn’t in the lineup, seniors Jorrell Bostrom and Bart Eddins took his place at left guard.
  • Etheridge, who is attempting to come back from a serious neck injury suffered late last season, did not practice at all. “With some of our guys that have had some injury-proneness, we’re going to take them and do with them what we can,” Chizik said. “They are somewhat limited. We’re just trying to be very smart with how they progress.”
  • Chizik said naming a starting quarterback by the end of spring is a priority, but the team will not be rushed into a decision. “We feel like whenever that develops and we’re able to do that because we’ve used great discernment and a lot of time to evaluate, then we’ll name who the starter is at that point,” he said.
  • Rigth now, all four quarterbacks -- Cam Newton, Neil Caudle, Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley -- are getting equal reps. "I told our guys, we're rotating four guys. You can't do that long," offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. "Hopefully we'll in a short period of time be able to narrow it down to possibly three and then two and, our goal would be, if we had the guy to be able to have a starter at the end of spring if that's possible, we're going to be 110 percent sure if we do that."
  • I'll have a story for tomorrow's paper on Newton. Here's what Malzahn had to say about him: "He did OK. His head was spinning at times, but that's to be expected but he had a good attitude. Like I said, I really expect him to correct the mistakes every day."
  • Malzahn said Auburn will try not to move offensive players around too much. "Starting out in spring, we're trying to keep our guys in one position as long as we can until we feel really good about having those positions down," Malzahn said. "Then, toward the end of the spring, the guys we feel like who have it down we'll be able to move them around."
  • Malzahn on wide receivers Terrell Zachery and Darvin Adams: "Both those guys are light years ahead of where they were last year."
  • Star recruit Michael Dyer's name came up Wednesday. Malzhan wasn't in the mood to talk about him. "We've got the guys we have in the spring," h e said. "We're trying to make them as good as they possibly can be and we're not really even thinking ahead as far as that goes. We do have some guys we really think can help us and Michael is one of those but we're really focused on the guys we have now trying to make them as good as they can possibly can."
  • Anthony Gulley is now going by the name Anthony Morgan. The sophomore, who played on both sides of the ball last season, wore white and worked on defense Wednesday.
  • Defensive coordinator Ted Roof on a pair of early enrollees, DE Craig Sanders and LB Jessel Curry, both of whom are freshmen: "It's their first college football practice today. They should be finishing up high school right now. They both did fine and I think that they both have very bright futures. I've been very impressed with both of them at this point."
  • Junior college transfers Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gayden alternated working at right tackle during drills Wednesday. They are the frontrunners to replace Andrew McCain, who started all 13 games there last season. I plan on doing a story on those two later this week, so I'll save some of that material for then, although here's what Malzahn had to say about them: "Both those guys are big physical people. Both have good attitudes and are both real good competitors so that will give us a lot of depth we feel like, which we didn't have very much last year, especially up front."

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