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Monday, August 16, 2010

Late night notes: Michael Dyer to get good look in scrimmage; A.J. Greene in mix at right tackle

Auburn coaches plan to take an extended look at five-star freshman running back Michael Dyer during today’s scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

“We fully expect him to play this year,” head coach Gene Chizik. “How much is going to, again, (depend on) how far he comes from this point to Game 1.”

The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Dyer, who ESPN ranked as the No. 1 running back in the country last year, has eased himself into the offense the first few weeks of camp, but coaches want to make sure he can do everything on the field.

“Obviously now, he can carry the football. We know that,” offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn said. “But there’s a lot more to playing running back, specifically in our offense that we ask him to do, so we’ll definitely give him a good look.”

Dyer has no concerns about carrying the ball (“All that is still natural to me,” he said), but admits he has a ways to go on his blocking, which he didn’t have to do too often at Little Rock (Ark.) Christian Academy.

“You’ve never had 250-pound guys coming at you in high school. It’s more like a buck 20,” Dyer said. “It’s just one of those things you have to go through to get better.”

Nevertheless, Dyer has no doubt he’ll make an impact this season.

“For me, when I get my chance to actually shine and carry the ball a few more times, (fans) will understand,” he said.

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Some more notes and quotes:
  • Add another name to the competition for the starting right tackle spot — A.J. Greene. The 6-foot-5, 291-pound junior has rotated with sophomore John Sullen and junior college transfers Brandon Mosley and Roszell Gayden this August. “He’s really come on,” Malzahn said. “He’s shown a different side to him, been very aggressive. He’s kind of been a passive, laid back guy before, but he’s really flipped the switch and he’s done a good job.”
  • On Monday, Sullen worked with the first team at right tackle during one drill. Greene was with the second unit. Mosley was on the second unit at left tackle. And Gayden, who has had some knee issues since the spring, was at right tackle on the third team.
  • Greene came to Auburn as a defensive lineman out of Madison, Tenn., but switched to offensive line two years ago. He’s had little impact until moving to right tackle last spring. “I just told myself, I’ve been up here too long and it’s time for me to just step up and do what I need to do,” Greene said. “So I just turned a light switch on and got focused on doing what I needed to do and it’s just been paying off.”
  • Malzahn gave no indication for when Auburn would name a starter but said the coaches would like to narrow the field soon.
  • Tuesday's scrimmage will take place at night. Auburn plays a bunch of early night games, so it makes sense. "We’re trying to simulate as close as we can to gametime," Chizik said. "As we go to pre-game warmup and catch balls and punts and see where the sun is and all those logistical things."
  • Here's what Chizik would like to see. "We’ve still got to be able to hunker in there and run the football consistently," he said. "We’re still looking for that. I don’t think that’s happened yet."
  • Another point of interest: special teams. "I think a lot of those positions are going to be filled by young guys," Chizik said.
  • Ryan White, who wore an orange non-contact jersey and dabbled as a quarterback during the first week and a half of practice, wore a white jersey during Monday’s practice and didn’t participate in any throwing drills. Coaches promised the 5-foot-10 White, a freshman from Tallahassee, Fla., a shot at quarterback, where he played in high school. The experiment lasted a week and a half before he moved to defensive back, where he projects as a college player.
  • While the Tigers did kick return drills, White worked with a staff member on an adjacent field, going over defensive back basics. “There’s a good bit of catchup there, but he’s a very good athlete,” Chizik said. “And it’s just going to be a matter of how fast he catches on.”
  • Some interesting stuff from Malzahn today about playing to quarterback Cam Newton's strengths. "Well, he can make plays when things break down," Malzahn said. "And everybody knows he's a good runner, but he's got a very strong arm. And he can get the ball in windows that a lot of people can't."
  • There are drawbacks to Newton's strong arm, however. Specifically, that he might try to fit the ball where it can't. "Quarterback is about decision making. And that's my job," Malzahn said. "I've got to put him in situations. He understands that guys are open and where to miss. If he's covered, where are we going to miss, where is our aiming point. So that's what we've been working on very hard, aiming points on certain routes, certain reads, where to miss. Sometimes throwing the ball away is the best play."
  • Auburn gave 291-pound freshman fullback Ladarious Phillips an extended look in practice. “I think he was shocked,” Malzahn said. “We’re trying to strain him, stress him. It ain’t Happiness Camp. We’re trying to see if he’ll pull his sleeves up and go to work.”
  • Linebacker Josh Bynes on trying to tackle Phillips: "You feel it. Yeah you feel it. When I see him coming in the hole in inside (drill) … when I can see what's going to come and I see him, I'm like: Dang. I don't show fear. I headbutt him. He headbutts me. I'm not going to say you don't feel it."
  • Sounds like Bynes would love to see Phillips as the short-yardage guy. "He'll be a monster. He's just a freshman. In another year or two, he'll be nice back there. It's not like he's a sloppy 288. He's bit. Nothing is sitting and sagging over his waistline. It's those upper ab muscles stickin' out. He's got a little strength to him, a little bulk to him. He's going to be something to reckon with in another year or two."
  • Bynes has been impressed by the freshman linebacker, especially Jake Holland, who has been working behind him. It sounds like there won't be any 115-snap performances in Bynes' future, like last year's Outback Bowl. "I hope not," he said. "Shoot. 115 was no joke. That was like five games. I really hope these freshmen come in and play."
  • What's a best-case scenario? "It's all going on how I am out there," he said. "The defensive line, the DBs, everybody is out there and going off how I am. If I'm out there moping around … they're not going to make it through it. I'm the one they're looking up to when things get rough, when things get tough. I have to go out there and be the same Josh each and every play regardless of how I feel. If I'm dead tired, I still have to go out there and act like I'm not. I have to show that I'm still into this game. That's what I did last year and even before. Even when I telling myself that I didn't have anything left, I stepped up and said: 'Let's go, Let's go.' I'm live and in effect like I wasn't even tired. I feel it, though."
  • Dyer on the freshman class, which this coaching staff seems extremely excited about: "I think you will understand why our whole class chose to come here. Each one in our class has a specific get-up about themselves. They have specific 'this is why I came here' because they're all good, have great ability, all good people. ... I think this unit has really bonded together and is ready to play at any time."


AUsome said...

Wow, great job Andy. How devastating would it be to lose Josh Bynes? He's an iron man though. He was #2 on AB's list for good reason.

Tar Heel Tiger said...

"I think this unit has really bonded together and is ready to play at any time."

I'm certainly ready for them to play! 18 days can't pass quickly enough.

MikeP said...

I guess I'll be the last one on the "L. Phillips at RB" train. I just don't see it.
He's got a real chance to help at DT after a redshirt year, but after seeing him play in HS I can't imagine him as an SEC running back.

Note: If I'm wrong about this, it will be the first time I've been wrong in about, oh, 15 minutes.