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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Late night practice notes: Mario Fannin feeling fine, remains at tailback, Gus Malzahn says

Mario Fannin’s shoulder is fine and he remains in the rotation at running back, Gus Malzahn assured reporters Tuesday.

“Nothing’s changed,” Auburn’s offensive coordinator said, amid rumors that the senior could move back to more of an H-back role.

Fannin dressed but did not play against Clemson after injuring his left shoulder during a fourth quarter run against Mississippi State on Sept. 9. The senior said it was a bad stinger, something he’s done to the shoulder before.

“It happens,” he said. “That’s football.

Although coaches took a precautionary move by keeping him out Saturday, Fannin was at full speed during Tuesday’s practice.

“It’s feeling good,” he said. “Got some contact on it today. Never felt better.”

Fannin hasn’t had the prominent role expected when he sat atop the running back depth chart all offseason. In two games, he has only eight carries for 20 yards, a 2.5-yard average.

Mike Dyer (39 carries, 212 yards) and Onterio McCalebb (31 carries, 225 yards) have gotten the majority of the work.

“I feel as though it’s going to take all of us to win,” Fannin said. “Each of us brings something different to the game. Whether it be getting outside running or running downhill or catching a pass, it’s going to take all of us.”

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Now for some more quotes and notes from late-night interviews:
  • The word of the day was: physical. Everybody talked about how today was a physical practice. How much so? Defensive tackle Nick Fairley summed it up well: "You could close your eyes and hear practice."
  • Fairley, on what to expect from South Carolina: "It’s going to be a physical game, SEC game, they’re going to come to town looking to beat us. Looking to run the ball inside a lot, basically trying to run it down our throats, see what we’re made of. We’ve got to step up as the defense as a whole, tackle better, bring a hat to it."
  • Malzahn talked about the offense's first-half struggles against Clemson. He gave some credit to the visiting Tigers but said it was mostly on his own players. "It was a combination, but mostly lack of execution," he said.
  • One problem? The offense had too many three-and-outs early, which didn't allow the coaches to get an idea of what Clemson would be doing defensively and adjust accordingly. "It was halftime before we really had a feel for what was going on," Malzahn said. "Our guys came out and they made some plays in the second half."
  • Malzahn agreed that Auburn needs to throw the ball more and to a bigger variety of receivers, but he maintains that it's a run/play-action offense. "When we talk about balance, we talk about yards and we’re fairly close in balance," he said. "But at the same time, a lot of people are putting an extra guy down against the run and we need to be more efficient when we do throw it. The other night the second half, they were daring us to throw it and we made a couple big plays in the passing game."
  • Malzahn sees potential in the offense all the time. It's just a matter of consistency. "We really try to judge ourselves on expectations we have as far as execution and being disciplined -- the things we talked about all spring," he said. "We’ve been inconsistent. We have made some big plays and it was good to see that we made enough plays to win the game. At the same time each week the stakes get higher and the opponents get a little tougher. So we’re going to have to execute better and eliminate mistakes and that’s what we’re working on."
  • Wide receiver Darvin Adams' assessment of the third quarter: "Everybody just settled down. Penalties kind of killed us a little bit. We were shooting ourselves in the foot. The offensive line started giving Cam a little more time and we executed."
  • Adams made a couple of jump-ball catches. "That's what Coach Troop says he likes about me -- I catch the ball away from my body," he said. "We have drills that take us through that. I had an opportunity to do that in the game and I tried to do that the best I could."
  • Running back Onterio McCalebb said he was knocked unconscious near the sideline by a hit in overtime against Clemson but hasn’t had any lingering effects. “He’s doing well,” Malzahn said. “That was a tough hit.” There's no plans to use him less. "No," Malzahn said. "We only have three tailbacks and we’ve got to use who can help us win."
  • Malzahn defended quarterback Cam Newton, who has been scrutinized somewhat for not throwing to enough receivers. "We’ve talked about progressions and he’s gotten better," Malzahn said. "But you’ve got to understand he’s got three games under his belt in our system. We ask a lot of our quarterback, not only during the game, but pre-snap. He’ll get more and more comfortable. Overall, I’m very proud of him."
  • Newton did a better job of protecting himself at the end of runs against Clemson. “He slid two or three times,” Malzahn said. “I was tickled.”
  • Adams hasn't joined Newton's scooter posse. "I don't ride no scooter," he said. "Crown Vic, baby."
  • The secondary still has zero interceptions this year. Fairley, a defensive lineman, has the team's only pick. "If I had an answer, I’d probably have a pick myself," cornerback Neiko Thorpe. "I’m still working on it. We all know we’ve got to get on it. We’re looking for our picks, but we’re not trying to rush it. We know they’ll come."
  • Does Fairley talk any trash about having the only pick? "We’re giving him his props, actually," Thorpe said. "We’re appreciative of that pick. There’s no need for trash talking."
  • Freshman linebacker Jessel Curry has taken on the dime linebacker role, when Auburn uses six defensive backs and a single linebacker. It's helped get Josh Bynes some breathers and has helped Curry get used to playing. "It sets my mind in one thing, so you don't have to worry about other things," he said. "One set, one job, a couple plays and it limits my screw-ups."
  • Curry has to make the calls as the dime 'backer. "It's not fun either," he said. "I don't have anyone to be like, 'What's the call?' I've got to know the call. Coach (Ted) Roof, he has individual periods just for me in dime. It stresses how important it is for me to be able to know myself."
  • Curry said he didn't really get to know South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore when he was on his recruiting trips to Auburn. "Not really," Curry said. "He was a bit of a longer. Every time I saw him he was by himself." Fannin was Lattimore's host and thought Lattimore would have been a good fit. "Coaches know what they’re doing," he said. "They know how to recruit. Any guy that talented can be a great addition."
  • One last note regarding Shon Coleman. I've been told Auburn's coaches have been granted an NCAA waiver to speak about him because of his circumstances. That's why he was allowed to be announced at the game last Saturday and why coaches may speak about him to the media. Although he signed with Auburn last February, he is technically a recruitable athlete right now because he is not enrolled.


AUDevil said...

Thanks for the note on Coleman, I was wondering about that.

Walker said...

Is there any word on Ladarious Phillips? It seems like if he is healthy, why not take the load off our top three against La Monore, etc. Plus the guy is obviously a fan favorite.

Anonymous said...

Walker, if we start playing guys because they are fan favorites, we're in a whole lot of trouble. The truth is Phillips talent has been blown way out of proportion by the fans. I wish him the best but he isn't going to be very much help right now.