War Eagle Extra has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 4 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Late practice notes: After long wait, Shoemaker seizes Auburn's punting job

Ryan Shoemaker got the news Tuesday that he’s been waiting three years to hear.

Shoemaker, a senior, beat out freshman Steven Clark for Auburn’s starting punting job, something he was informed of by coaches before practice.

“It’s been a long competition,” Shoemaker said. “This offseason I’ve really worked on being more consistent and I feel like it’s really paid off throughout this entire camp. I’m hitting the ball really well right now.”

Shoemaker started as a freshman in 2007 but was beaten out by Clinton Durst the past two years. Once Durst graduated, it wasn’t a given that Shoemaker would succeed him. Clark, a 6-foot-5 freshman from Kansas City, has a big leg and a bright future on the Plains, according to coaches.

“He’s one of the better freshmen I’ve ever seen coming into college,” Shoemaker said. “He did push me a little bit. That was good for both of us. I feel like he’s gotten a lot better as well.”

The competition went back and forth all August. Shoemaker showed a stronger leg, but Clark was better at hangtime and getting punts off quickly. But the Tigers didn’t want a split situation.

“We wanted to have all our guys in place,” head coach Gene Chizik said. “Ryan’s got experience.”

Shoemaker knows all Tuesday’s announcement meant was that he’d start against Arkansas State. The competition won’t stop.

Shoemaker's goals are to get a hangtime above 4.5 seconds and 38 or more yards on his punts.

"You don't have to kick a 55-yard punt every single punt," he said. "It's being consistent and kicking it solid and eliminating the bad punts, the shanks especially. It really has been, it's what I've been going off of from Day 1 is consistency.

Follow the blog on Twitter or be a fan on Facebook.

Here are some more notes from late interviews:
  • “ATH” is how freshman Shaun Kitchens was described during the recruiting process, the abbreviation for athlete. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder from College Park, Ga., projected at a number of possible positions in college, including receiver, tight end or linebacker. On Auburn’s first depth chart, he’s listed as an H-back. “I feel like that’s what is the most unique thing about me,” he said. “I can play a lot of different positions. I just love the learning experience, so it’s just fun.”
  • Versatility is a key in offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn’s system. On the two-deep, 15 players are listed at the five different skill positions. “This is a very diverse offense,” Kitchens said. “The offense is not going to go through one person. Everyone gets a chance to make plays.”
  • Interesting exchange with Malzahn about WR Trovon Reed, who has been slowed by a bruised knee cap. Asked is Reed practiced Thursday, Malzahn kind of hesitated before saying, "Uhh ... yeah. He was able to practice." Asked if he thought Reed would play Saturday, Malzahn said, "Yes," but offered nothing else. That was how the interview ended. Awkwardly. So I'd gather it's probably not a stone-cold lock you'll see Reed on the field against Arkansas State.
  • Fellow freshman wide receiver Antonio Goodwin wasn’t on the initial depth chart. “He’s a talented young man,” Malzahn said. “We’re just trying to decide whether he’s ready or not.”
  • Malzahn noted that today's depth chart was not iron clad. More players could get in the game depending on situations and injuries.
  • Malzahn has come across Arkansas State coordinator Hugh Freeze in his time. Freeze asked about the head coaching job at Shiloh Christian High in Arkansas after Malzahn the school in 2000. Both coaches finally hit it big in the college game, however. Malzahn latched on to Arkansas in 2006. Freeze went to Ole Miss in 2005, eventually serving as interim coach after Ed Orgeron was fired. "He's a very good football coach and he knows X's and O's and has been successful wherever he's been," Malzahn said. "I do know that he's got a spread mentality. He does like to throw the ball. He likes to use some different formations that we do, but I know he's good at executing."
  • Malzahn expects all three running backs -- Mario Fannin, Onterio McCalebb and Michael Dyer -- to get carries Saturday. Fannin thinks they all bring different styles to the backfield. "O brings speed to the backfield and he can get around the corner," he said. "Mike is more versatile. He can get outside and stay inside, as well as me. So we bring a lot to the table, and that's a good thing. Having three of the same backs, you can't really be versatile at that position. But I feel as though our backfield is a good accomplishment for this team."
  • Fannin sounded legitimately excited to finally get his shot at tailback, after years of playing receiver and H-back. "It's a good feeling, being able to suit up your senior season and being in a position that you really wanted to play since you got here," he said. "Now is the time to just show everybody that you can fulfill that position. A lot of people come through here, a lot of great players came through here and played that position, and it's just your time to show, not just your teammates but your Auburn family, that you can play it. So it's going to be a fun challenge and I can't wait to get started."
  • Fannin on what this running game is capable of. "I feel we can be as good as we want to be," he said.
  • Even Malzahn is curious to see how quarterback Cam Newton will fare Saturday. "Until you actually get to see somebody in the heat of the battle, there's some questions that we'll learn after the first few games after we get to know each other even better going through those times," he said. "And he's got a good handle of the offense, but I really expect him each week to get a better grip and a better grasp as we go."
  • Newton, despite repeated media requests, said he hasn't tired of the attention. "That's what you sign up for," he said. "You never get tired for it. Coach Malzahn said the great players and great teams embrace the process and this is part of the process."
  • We've had a lot of "Cam Newton: Leader of Men" quotes this August, but Fannin summed up pretty well why Newton has gained the team's respect so quickly. "Cam is a guy when he got here, he worked hard," Fannin said. "You can see him just coming up here on the weekends and practicing on the field by himself and doing extra routes when he didn't have to. And that's something that earns respect here. You look at a guy like that work hard and you can't do anything but respect him. After Friday, a day of pulling sleds or lifting squats and things like that, you see him out there in the afternoon by himself Saturday, so you can't do anything but respect him. Just his hard work alone just pretty much sealed the deal for us. And we understood where he was trying to go and we understood where we were trying to go."
  • Newton was asked about his former Florida teammate John Brantley, who will get the nod as the Gators' starting quarterback today. He had good things to say. "We were always looking at Tebow and looking at how he prepared for the game," Newton said. "It was nothing like a hatred thing. We were just waiting our turn, and unfortunately he got the chance, but I'm still in an excellent situation myself, so it worked out for the both of us."
  • Newton wouldn't say whether he or Brantley had the upper hand to replace Tebow, but he was all about Brantley's upside. "I think John Brantley has a heck of an arm," Newton said. "The whole college nation will be hearing about John Brantley, because he's an excellent quarterback. He's an excellent person to be around. And he's an excellent leader."
  • Newton's motor scooter gang is expanding, by the way. There were four parked in front of the athletic complex Tuesday. He called it "The Cammy Cam Bike Club."
  • DT Jeffrey Whitaker was hesitant to say he could play at this level when camp first started in August. But he sounds confident he can contribute now, especially physically. "That’s what I was all about," Whitaker said. "I know if I can do anything, I can pass a lick, and I don’t mind contact. It was everything I thought it was going to be – and a little bit more. When you’ve got 600 pounds closing that double team, it’s not the same as high school anymore. The physical part? I’m a physical guy. Coach Rock is trying to teach you there are times you’re going to have to be physical, but there are a lot of times, we’re not trying to win the World’s Strongest Man Contest. You get off blocks and make plays."
  • Whitaker was high on DT Zach Clayton, who is right ahead of him on the depth chart. "He is a beast," Whitaker said. "Boys against men. He’s slinging people, throwing people. I’m the type of the guy who is always asking questions, so I’m always asking Zach `what about this? What about this? Zach watch me when I’m out there.’ He’s been a big help to me. Him, Mike Blanc, Nick Fairley, everybody, have been a big help to a freshman."
  • Whitaker doesn't anticipate a letdown against Arkansas State, even if Auburn is heavily favored (30 points, last I checked). "The last time they put on pads and we put on pads," he said. "It’s Arkansas State. Big up front. They know how to play some ball. They don’t mind hitting you in the mouth."


Jerrod Moll said...

Any more word on Eltoro's status? I know Turf Toe can be a tough injury to shake. I think Reed will play some but we are going to be very vanilla against Ark St so that we don't tip anything to Miss St.

I hope Phillips get well quick because I look forward to him catching a pass in the flats and running over DB's!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Ryan Shoemaker All-SEC after his freshmen year?

Moose said...

I hope Shoemaker isn't too comfortable. He's basically just keeping Clark's seat warm for him. Its pitiful that a guy of Shoemaker's talent level had to be pushed by a freshman. It all just points to Shoemaker not putting the extra effort when he needed to in years past. I hope he's got his attitude right for the upcoming season.

Anonymous said...

You do an awesome job, Andy

Andy Bitter said...

Eltoro sounds like he's doing well. He's on the depth chart for the opener. Last we saw him, he still had a little limp, but it was less pronounced than earlier. I think he'll play.

And Shoemaker was a second-team All-SEC pick by the AP after his freshman year.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.