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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Late practice notes: No news as to who will start at RG; Auburn steals a commit from Alabama

AUBURN, Ala. — Just who will start for Auburn at right guard Saturday at Tennessee remains a mystery.

“You can ask coach (
Gene) Chizik,” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said with a smile Wednesday, knowing reporters had already spoken with Chizik for the last time this week just minutes earlier.

The Tigers have rotated a variety of players at right guard during practice after starter Byron Isom was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules last week.

True freshman
John Sullen started in his place against Ball State and held his own.

“(He did) OK for a true freshman,” Grimes said. “That’s a tough job to be in is a true freshman to step in and start. I’ve done it at the last three schools I’ve coached at and every time it’s a challenge because there’s just so much to learn in terms of what to do and how to do it for young guys. Tough spot to be in.”

Auburn has also taken a look at junior
Bart Eddins and sophomore Jared Cooper, neither of whom have started a game in their careers. Both have gotten limited playing time in every game this season.

The coaching staff also hasn’t explicitly ruled Isom out for the game. Despite his suspension, he has been allowed to practice this week.

A couple of items before I get to the rest of the notes. I've got a LIVE chat about Auburn football tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT that I would love for you to stop by and join.
Here's a link to do so.

You should also
follow the blog on Twitter, because it's sweeping the nation. And once you're done with that, read these other notes from Wednesday:
  • Ariton, Ala., defensive end Craig Sanders backed out of his commitment to Alabama and verbally committed to Auburn on Wednesday, according to AuburnSports.com. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound four-star recruit committed to the Crimson Tide in May. He is the first recruit in the last six signing classes to switch from Alabama to Auburn. Sanders is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 7 recruit in the state of Alabama and the No. 12 weak-side defensive end in the country. He is Auburn’s 17th commitment for 2010 and the third defensive end in the class.
  • Auburn fans expecting to participate in a full-blown Tiger Walk in Knoxville this Saturday will be disappointed. Although fans will still be allowed to greet Auburn players as they get off the bus, Tennessee athletic officials have asked that the band and cheerleaders not participate for safety issues. The visiting team drop-off area is on a hill and in a tight space. “In 2004 when the Tigers played here, we had approximately 5,000 fans show up with the band and the cheerleaders, which was a great atmosphere, but a huge safety issue for the student-athletes, band and cheerleaders and fans because of the tight space,” UT spokesperson Tiffany Carpenter wrote in an e-mail to the Knoxville News Sentinel. “If something had happened to a fan in that area, EMT would not have been able to respond because of the crowd size.”
  • Anthony Gulley, Demond Washington and Quindarius Carr have gotten the majority of work as punt returners this week, said wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor, who oversees the group. But Auburn still doesn’t have an answer as to who will return punts Saturday. “Those guys have either got it or they don’t, in my opinion,” special teams coordinator Jay Boulware said. “And I haven’t seen anybody who’s got it as of yet, so we’ll see.” A host of players have spent some time returning punts this week as well, including running backs Mario Fannin, Onterio McCalebb and Eric Smith and wide receiver Philip Pierre-Louis.
  • Pierre-Louis has not played in a game this year, per Chizik’s discretion, a subject the coach didn’t shed any light on Wednesday. “We just kind of take it day-by-day with him and he’s been out there practicing and working every day,” said Chizik, who did not say whether or not Pierre-Louis would travel to Knoxville.
  • Boulware said his returners were still on the field working when he was called in to do an interview with reporters Wednesday. "We've got a coach who works with them every day in practice -- they're out there working right now," Boulware said. "I had to leave, just for a second. They told me I had a stinkin' interview so I came up here. Those guys are working hard."
  • Boulware on if PK Wes Byrum's perfect start caught him by surprise. "I don't know that 'surprised' is the right word," he said. "Wes has worked really hard. When I first got here, I wasn't pleased with his production or lack there of in the spring or what I looked and saw on tape last year. We got him out there and worked some things, tried to dress up some things like his followthrough -- I thought his followthrough wasn't very good. He's really worked hard at it, guys. He's really worked hard at it, guys. All the credit goes to Wes. He's doing a good job. He's knocking some field goals through. We work that every single day. We try to get him to be perfect every single day. I've told you guys that before. That's been our big emphasis. He's doing well. Knock on wood. I hope he can continue doing that right now. We're only four games deep. First part of our season. We're only a third of the way through. Let's see how he finishes up."
  • Teams are allowed to bring 70 players on the road in SEC play, which creates some problems (although Auburn doesn't have too many scholarship players, so it can't be that big of a problem). "We're pretty far along in that as far as knowing where we're going to go," Chizik said. "It's really coming down to one or two guys that are backups, but right now I think we're in good shape."
  • Chizik did say freshman QB Tyrik Rollison will travel for Saturday’s game.
  • Grimes said he expects to take at least 10 offensive linemen to the game Saturday. Taylor expects to bring 10 or 11 receivers, including all four of his true freshmen -- DeAngelo Benton, Emory Blake, Travante Stallworth and Anthony Gulley.
  • Contrary to reports Sunday, freshman OL Andre Harris did not play near the end of the Ball State game, meaning his redshirt is still in tact. The Auburn sports information staff misidentified Darrell Roseman for Harris.
  • Chizik did not comment specifically on if LB Spencer Pybus suffered a setback in his recovery from an August concussion. “We don’t know exactly where that’s at right now,” he said. “It’s just in a situation where time is the only thing that’s going to be the great healer for him.” Pybus, who practiced for the first time in a month and a half last week, has not played in a game this year.
  • Grimes wasn't entirely pleased with his line's effort against Ball State, although one of those kind of games pops up every now and then. "I don't know if there's been a particular season where we didn't have that," he said. "I do know, typically the longer I have a group of guys and the longer they kind of buy into the mentality I'm trying to preach to them, the closer they'll get to being the kind of guys that are just warriors and it doesn't matter who you're playing. Certainly, you see it every weekend in college football, there are teams and sometimes they win and sometimes they lose against big underdogs because they don't step out and play the way they're capable of playing. My take on it is you only get 13 opportunities to step out and play in a game on Saturday. You've got a lot of days you've got to practice, a lot of days you've got to run, a lot of days you've got to lift weights and do a whole bunch of other stuff you don't like to do. So when you get an opportunity to step out there under the lights, it shouldn't matter who you're playing. If you're the right kind of person, if you've got the right kind of spirit and if you're a warrior then you'll go to battle regardless of who it is."
  • Boulware says the no-name players that have been contributing on special teams are helping a ton, since Auburn doesn't have too much depth across the board. "As I mentioned to some of you guys the other day, coach Chizik calls them 'The Unfamiliar Names.' I call them 'The Others,'" Boulware said. "The other guys that nobody really knows on this football team and they're allowing our team to stay fresh, to be honest with you. They're allowing us an opportunity to rest a Josh Bynes, a Craig Stevens, a Neiko Thorpe. On a thin football team, they're allowing us to play guys that haven't had any snaps in college football until this year."
  • We got a lot of stuff from Trooper on his time as an assistant coach at Tennessee under Phil Fulmer, who he called Phillip. That'll start off my story for Friday, so I'll save that until then. But he did recruit safety Eric Berry to the Vols when he was there. This is what he had to say about the All-American: "He's really talented and he's smart. You're not going to get him twice on the same deal. He's going to be physical. I know his ability. He's smart enough to bait a guy and you float one out there and next you thing you know he's running down the sidelines with it. You saw the tackle between him and (Tim) Tebow. He's not going to back down. If Tebow was driving a truck, he'd get in front of it if he thought it would help him win. He doesn't like to lose at anything."
  • Taylor doesn't see burning Benton and Blake's redshirts as a waste this year, even if neither of them has caught a pass this year. "There's no substitute for experience -- whether they played 2 plays or 200.," Taylor said. "Just traveling with the team will make them better next year. Being at these stadiums and going into these hostile environment like they're about to see at Tennessee will make them better for the future. I believe those two guys will get more playing time. If the two guys in front of them are playing well, they're not going to get that playing time."
  • He also said Blake's had an injury he's been dealing with the last two weeks, otherwise he would have gotten more playing time.
  • And lastly, there's this interesting nugget from Trooper about Stallworth: "The kid is struggling because his father is in the military. He's stationed in El Paso. He drove 19 hours to see his kid play. He hadn't seen him play but twice -- including high school -- because he was in Iraq. He's trying to get stationed in Montgomery or someplace closer. Those were things he was dealing with that he and I had to talk. It didn't have anything to do with football, but it was affecting him on the field. He had to get to the point where you leave those things in the dorm where you live when you step between those white lines. That's the beauty of sports. That's the place where all things are equal. Doesn't matter where you're front. Doesn't matter which jersey you wore in high school. When you get here, everybody is Auburn. It's an equalizer. It took him a while to understand that. It's hard. He's a young kid. Obviously, he cares a lot about his father and he'd like him to see him play. He doesn't make mistakes. He hasn't had a missed assignment … I can't tell you the last time he had one, including practice."

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