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Friday, August 20, 2010

Practice notes: Etheridge to go live in scrimmage

Safety Zac Etheridge has been cleared by Auburn’s medical staff to go live in Saturday’s scrimmage for the first time since suffering a serious neck injury last fall.

Etheridge, who tore ligaments in his neck and cracked one of his vertebrae last October against Ole Miss, missed all of spring practice and has been held out of full contact drills this August, despite being cleared medically in mid-July.

“I mean, it is a neck. It was a plan we had to work,” Etheridge said. “You can’t just throw me back out there. I’ve been out of the game for like six months, so you’ve got to give me time to get myself ready and physically.”

Etheridge had been given minimal clearance in the first few weeks of camp. He could participate in drills that involved light contact, but nothing major. Teammates could see him itching for contact, however.

“When we’re in skelly or whatever, we’re not supposed to hit, but you’ll see him just nudge somebody every now and then, just like he just wants to get a little bit in while he can,” linebacker Craig Stevens said. “So since he can go all out tomorrow, I’m pretty sure he’s going to let it out.”

Etheridge said he has no apprehension about going live again, nor does he feel like he’s behind in the competition. He’s working at free safety, Mike McNeil at strong safety and Aairon Savage at both.

Who’s first on Etheridge’s hit list?

“Whoever is in the way,” he said. “That’s going to be the first blow.”

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Here are some other notes and quotes from the night's interviews:
  • Saturday's scrimmage at Jordan-Hare Stadium will focus on the young guys again. "We tell them, don’t count the days, make the days count," said wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, who sat in for Gene Chizik during Friday's interviews. "Win every drill, win in every opportunity you have a chance to compete. Because we’re grading."
  • Auburn will take a long look at its punt returners in the stadium, going live for some portions so they can get used to catching the ball under pressure. “We’re going to send some live bullets at them,” said Taylor, who oversees the group. “They haven’t been hit.”
  • Taylor gave a pecking order at the position as of Friday: Quindarius Carr is at the top, followed by Darvin Adams, Trovon Reed and Jonathon Mincy. “That order could be flipped in a heartbeat,” Taylor said. “The biggest thing you like is that they’re not letting the ball hit the ground. With punt return, it has to be a knack. If you have to teach a guy how to catch a punt, you’re probably down by seven. That’s probably where we were last year.”
  • Adams still sounds like he'll return punts begrudgingly. "You know, I do a little somethin'," he said. "I just try to help the team in any positive way I can. If Coach Troop needs me to go out there and just fair catch the ball, if I need to do that, I would."
  • Taylor gave no indication when injured wide receiver DeAngelo Benton (hand) would be back. "I hope so," Taylor said. "He’s really been working hard. The mental side, I’ve been testing him on that. We give him a written test to take home. Obviously he can phone a friend or get some help when he goes back to that dorm, but he’s gotten 100 percent every time. We’re going to see if it carries over to the football field. I don’t really talk to them very much when they’re in the tub, so he thinks right now that he’s on my ill-list. But I love the kid. But, again, you got to have him out there doing it."
  • Adams doesn't seem to make many preseason watch lists. Why? "You've got to win," Taylor said. "You win 12, You win 10. That's going to give you the recognition you're looking for. The guy had three catches coming into the season. He did it on the field. First you put yourself out there. Then the next time, that's when you put yourself on the map. That's what we're trying to do now. It's good motivation for all of them."
  • Trooper had high praise for Darvin, who happened to walk in to the interview room right when the coach was talking about him. "He'd play if all of us got together and got in the parking lot," Taylor said. "He'd play and try to win. He loves to play. That gives him a chance. If you ever want to see a player practice with the same speed he plays at, come watch Darvin. That's what you're going to get. The defense will tell you. You'd better not go thud or half speed. He's not. Even in shells, I have to slow him down. He's going to full speed. I'd rather say whoa than sick em myself. That doesn't bother me very much. Secondary coaches don't like it very much."
  • Now that's he on the radar, Adams probably will get more attention thrown his way by defenses this year. "I don’t think about that," he said. "I just go out and execute the plays. If they do, that will open up somebody else, so that means somebody else will get the ball and I already know we’ve got a lot of play-makers on this team, so it won’t really matter if they double team me or not."
  • Sophomore Emory Blake has been working at the "5" position (the slot), along with Kodi Burns, Derek Winter and Jay Wisner. "You just have to recognize things a little quicker, just with certain blitzes," Blake said. "You’ve got to pick them up."
  • Stevens seems to think Daren Bates has made the switch to linebacker successfully. "Daren Bates is doing great," he said. "He just had to get used to the footwork that you use in the box, you know, shuffling and things like that. But as far as his running and hitting people and knowing his assignments, he's been picking that up quickly."
  • Stevens echoed Ted Roof's statement Thursday that Eltoro Freeman, despite the toe injury, is coming along. "He's been picking up light years ahead of where he was last camp. He knows all the plays. You can hear him in the meeting rooms. Coach asks him a question (and) before he can even get the whole question out, Toro is trying to answer it. He's just ready to get out and prove himself. "
  • The offense had a big day against the defense in the last scrimmage, something the latter took as a wake-up call. “All the way up until the last scrimmage we’ve been getting nothing but praise about how good we were and how good we’ve been doing,” Stevens said. “And I guess just having a scrimmage like that just showed us that we’re not invincible. We’re going to have some bad times. It’s just trying to find a way to pull through it.”


scottie burns said...

it was good to see him kickin it at fan day. good dude. best wishes to #4 this year.

Tar Heel Tiger said...

As David Letterman says, "Hit Somebody!"

Go Zac!

Tar Heel Tiger said...

Love the added quotes, AB. Thanks!!!