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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Late night practice notes: Auburn schedules fourth scrimmage in 11 days for Saturday

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s practice schedule has been crammed with scrimmages so far, something that won’t change in the near future.

For the fourth time in 11 days, the Tigers will scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday, two weeks before the season opener against Arkansas State.

“From that point, we’re really going to start formulating game plans, narrowing things down,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “I think when you do that it becomes easier for the younger guys because you’re focusing on just these things for a particular game.”

Chizik has altered last year’s August practice schedule, which included 10 straight days of work in the early going. This season, the Tigers have had four days on and one off.

“We just felt like every fifth day would be a good day for them to kind of recoup their legs,” Chizik said. “It’s good physically and mentally for those guys.”

The scrimmage-heavy portion of the schedule was designed in hopes that players would retain knowledge of playing in the stadium, which requires calls from the sideline and game-like situations.

“We try to correct the things that we talk about, and really the only way you can truly correct them is through scrimmages and seeing them actually perform,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said.

The only concern is making sure the players emerge from the scrimmages in good health.

“That’s what we train for,” running back Onterio McCalebb said. “If you’re a ballplayer, you’re a ballplayer. You’ve got to be up for any challenge.”

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Tough night for any real kind of information, but we'll try to sift through the quotes for something. Here we go:
  • Chizik's daily practice report: "Went out there and did a lot of teaching today, just kind of circling back from the scrimmage and going back kind of to the beginning. Just again addressing all the things that in the scrimmage we weren't quite sharp enough at. I thought they came out today, obviously the first day since school started that we practiced. I thought the tempo was good, the focus was good and it was a good practice today."
  • Auburn’s coaches used Wednesday’s off day to evaluate film and narrow down some position battles, but not enough to the point where they’re ready to announce anything. “We’ve not made any final decisions, but we’re starting to at least see some things,” Malzahn said. “We do have a good idea, but at the same time we want to give everybody a chance.”
  • The two positions of interest are right tackle and backup quarterback. Malzahn said the right tackle competition is down to three players — Brandon Mosley, John Sullen and A.J. Greene. Mosley has worked some as a backup left tackle too.
  • Roszell Gayden has dealt with a knee injury this August and appears to be out of the running.
  • The battle for the backup quarterback job between Neil Caudle, Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley is equally murky. “We’re still trying to figure out some kind of order,” Malzahn said. “It’s hard, because they’re all three very solid. We’re trying to give them fair reps, but like I said, there’s not much difference at all. They’re very quality quarterbacks.”
  • As much as the scrimmages help the young guys, it helps Cam Newton too. Malzahn made a good point about Newton: "It's been good to see how he reacts to certain situations. Because we're still learning from each other. And the more situations and the more things that he can be in and we can watch him react, that'll help us in the future."
  • Malzahn sounded optimistic about Shaun Kitchens being able to contribute. Kitchens has been doing some H-back things and worked with the running backs during some drills Thursday. "If he stays with it and works hard and be completely committed, which I really believe he will, then he'll have a chance to help," Malzahn said.
  • Count center Ryan Pugh as someone who thinks the offensive line's play could have been better in the most recent scrimmage. "It's one of those things where we take a step forward and then there are days where we take a step back," he said. "We weren't every impressed with our scrimmage, and I think everyone knows that up front. And we know what it takes to be successful. We just have to go out there with the right mind set every day, and you can't take a day off in this league."
  • Pugh credits the defensive line for creating some of those problems, however. "The front four has really turned it on," he said. "They’ve gotten better each day. I think it’s one of those things we’ve got some talent up front on the offensive line, and that’s going to help them get better. They’re talented over there because they have so many seniors and athleticism on that side of the ball. That’s going to make us better."
  • Linebacker Eltoro Freeman is making progress from the turf toe that has kept him out the last week, but he still didn’t practice with the team Thursday. Freeman, who was briefly in a boot last week after being injured on the final play of a scrimmage, was being fitting with special footwear while the rest of the Tigers stretched. When Auburn began drills, Freeman headed to the adjacent John H. Watson Fieldhouse for work on the side. He had a noticeable limp. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof didn’t sound concerned about Freeman’s injury or absence. “He’s had an absolutely fantastic camp,” Roof said. “I’ve been really pleased with him. We’ll just see what happens.”
  • Roof on how the defense has done: "We certainly have some thoughts, but until you actually do it … the old saying is: The proof's in the pudding. I feel very encouraged about where we are. I know that we've made strides. I know we're ahead of where we were last year. We haven't played a game yet to prove it. You can always go back to that."
  • Demond Washington is fan of backups Jonathon Mincy and Chris Davis, a pair of freshmen. "They're catching on quick, they're learning, they're taking criticism very well," he said. "I mean, we're going to need them this year." Washington said the two have worked in on the nickel and dime packages.
  • Defensive end Joel Bonomolo, a junior college transfer, is dinged up and was not a full participant in Thursday’s practice. Chizik said it’s “nothing serious, it’s just something that can obviously put you behind.”
  • Apparently, players call freshmen safety Demetruce McNeal "Meat Boy," so add that to the list of nicknames.
  • McNeal, a high school teammate of Kitchens from College Park, Ga., said things have slowed down from the first time he stepped on the field. "I was thinking a lot," he said. "'Oh man, I don't know what to do here' or 'I wonder what coach is going to say if I miss this.' It really, really came down to listening and just trying to get right." He said his best scrimmage was the third one, when he worked some with the first team and had an interception.
  • McNeal is aware he's low on the depth chart, but he's not lacking in confidence, that's for sure. "I'm not going to complain and moan about a lot of reps because when my time comes, coach Chiz and coach Thig and the coaching know what I can do," he said. "They've seen me on the field. They know it's a secret what ability I got. It just comes down to when I learn the system, and get it like I got my high school system, I'm going to be a great player. That's just the way I feel."


stymo99 said...

Not to disagree with you, Andy, but I thought that was pretty chockful of info... in particular I enjoyed the designation of DM as "Meat Boy"... made me laugh and got to wondering, other than Da-Da, are there any other nicknames of note that you've come across recently and would care to share?

Anonymous said...

El Toro is known as "The Bull" by fans....and "Toro" by teammates....this is what I am hearing. I hope that toe heals up soon.