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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Practice notes: Lemonier making an impression

Gene Chizik rarely doles out praise to a specific player, especially not a young player. But Auburn's head coach did exactly that with freshman defensive end Corey Lemonier on Tuesday.

"He's going to push somebody for a position," Chizik said. "I usually don't say that this early but he's really coming on strong. He's exactly what we'd thought he'd be."

Lemonier has worked at the quick end position, along with senior starter Antoine Carter. Sophomore Dee Ford and junior college transfer Joel Bonomolo have also worked there, but Lemonier has caught the coaches' eye.

"The sky's the limit, but definitely playing time," Lemonier said of his expectations. "The coaches really like how I'm practicing out there."

The 6-foot-4, 227-pound defensive end from Hialeah, Fla., was a signing day boon for the Tigers last year, announcing his decision on ESPN. Rivals ranked him as a four-star recruit, the No. 3 defensive end in the country and No. 35 player overall.

He's worked on using his hands to his advantage in getting off the line since practice began, but he has one thing that's set him apart.

"Speed," Lemonier said. "Just speed."

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Some other notes and quotes:
  • Livelier practice today, according to Chizik. "I thought we had a much better practice this morning in terms of tempo and effort and energy," he said. "Obviously we're going to be very demanding on that, make sure we get that every day."
  • Auburn has its first scrimmage this August tomorrow. The Tigers will have officials on the field to make they are doing things correct procedurally. The team will be live the whole time except for the quarterbacks. "It's execution, it's consistency, it's the thing we've been talking about since Day 1," Chizik said. "Are we consistent? Are we not consistent? I want to make sure we've got a huge, huge improvement, which in practice I believe we have in terms of penalties."
  • Don't know yet if safety Zac Etheridge (neck) will be cleared for full contact tomorrow.
  • WR Trovon Reed was on the side working today with an undisclosed injury. Quarterback Cam Newton said he'll be back tomorrow.
  • WR Darvin Adams on returning punts: "Like coach says -- everything ain't for everybody. I feel like I can go in and catch a punt and field a ball."
  • Adams said WR DeAngelo Benton broke a bone in his hand. He said he once had jammed fingers in practice and just taped them up and kept going. Reporters asked if Benton why Benton wasn't doing that. Adams' response: "He broke a whole bone. I'm just praying for DeLo … that he'll be back and help the team. ... He'll be back. He's going to be good. He's still working. DeLo came a long way. When he gets out of this cast, he's going to be ready. Even now, he's still trying to get out there and work on his routes. He's still running and everything."
  • The depth chart at the "9" receiver position, per Adams: Adams, Benton, Antonio Goodwin.
  • Adams' drop count this August: two. "That's too many," he said.
  • LB Daren Bates said he's up around 212 pounds right now after a summer of eating three meals a day on top of shakes and a bunch of snacks. It didn't help his weight gain that he couldn't lift weight with his upper body until May. But he feels good at linebacker, which requires a different mentality than safety. "You have to be a real head-buster to be in the box," he said. "You've got to take on a guy who's 6-8, 6-9, 300 pounds. You've just got to be strong and not be fearful. Just go head first."
  • Bates said it helps to have Travis Williams on the staff. Williams was a former undersized linebacker himself. "He was always a head-buster," Bates said.
The prodigal interviewees returned after months of requests. Bunch of stuff from both Eltoro Freeman and Philip Pierre-Louis. I'll probably write stories on both in the upcoming days, but I won't hold back the info for now.

Let's start with Freeman:
  • He's back at weak-side linebacker, working behind Craig Stevens. He said he's more comfortable there because it's his original spot. "I've been playing that all my life, so it hasn't been a big adjustment at all."
  • He doesn't sound worried about not starting. "I'm not into who's going first or who's going second. I'm not into all that," he said. "I'm just into trying to help my team win and trying to get better with my assignments, and just go out there and play ball."
  • On 2009 being a lost year: "I don't think it was a lost year. I learned a lot from the '09 year, mentally, how to handle things. I feel like '09 was a great year, and if I could change '09 I wouldn't. I would want it to be the way that it happened. I think that made me the person and the player that I am today."
  • Is he hungrier now? "I'm starvin'. I'm starvin' now."
  • He said the Arkansas game last year, when he didn't travel, was a low point. "I felt like I was on the wrong track," he said.
  • Freeman said a big difference this year is that he's not dwelling on his mistakes. "I thought last year I put a lot of pressure on myself to come in and do this and do that," he said. "I talked to the coaches or whatever, and I realized it's not about me, it's about the team. So it doesn't matter if I get 10 tackles or no tackles, as long as we're winning and I'm doing my assignments right."
  • Chizik said Freeman was as focused and as healthy as he's ever been. Must be, if Chizik let him talk to us.
Now for PPL:
  • The facts: he injured his ACL in April during Auburn's second spring scrimmage. He was running a reverse and fell wrong. It was a worse injury than the first time he hurt his knee in 2008. It's only four months since he had surgery. He's not restricted but says he'll be completely ready by the time the season starts. "It was kind of surprising. I'm not going to lie," he said. "But in the back of my head, I did it my freshman year, so I knew what to expect going into surgery and rehabbing. So I just pushed myself really."
  • The worst part about it: "It was so frustrating, because it felt like I came from the bottom with the new coaches and I had to work my way and prove to them that I want to be here. And I started gaining their trust. And when I got hurt, it just felt like I couldn't come back. But everybody was behind me and it just helped me out a lot."
  • PPL admitted he didn't give the new coaching staff a good first impression. "You know, just little things," he said. "Not being places I need to be. Not doing the right things at times. Showing up late to meetings. Things like that. Showing them that I didn't really want to be here."
  • Chizik told him to take the summer of 2009 off to think about things. PPL got a job as a painter to fill time. It was an eye-opener. "It was the worst summer ever," he said. "I felt so bored, so lonely. All my friends were up here. Everybody was getting better while I was at home, sitting down, trying to get a job, trying to work. It was the worst summer I had in years."
  • He's working as a slot receiver right now, trying to fit in to Gus Malzahn's offense any way he can.
  • Darvin on PPL: "Phil's got heart. You think about -- anybody that's coming off if two knee surgeries probably would have given up. He's still out there working, going hard and trying to help the team."


Jay G. Tate said...

I think you're the greatest, but my dad says you don't work hard enough on defense ...

Dear Leader said...

PPL on the comeback..

Do you like Gladiator movies?

SteveFC said...

Good stuff, Andy. Thanks. I didn't realize Benton broke a bone. That kid has had a lot of bad breaks.