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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Practices notes: LBs Pybus, Gaston will miss time

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn’s linebacking depth is much more dire that first anticipated.

The Tigers might be without two scholarship linebackers for quite some time. Sophomore Spencer Pybus continues to have medical issues stemming from a preseason concussion and will likely miss the remainder of the season, head coach Gene Chizik said.

Freshman Harris Gaston, meanwhile, has an undisclosed injury that will keep him out at least for Saturday’s game at Arkansas. He will be re-evaluated next week.

“That position, since the beginning, has been a concern for me depth-wise,” Chizik said. “The depth issues still are popping up. You hope as you go through you can kind of train guys and bring them along, but it’s still a concern for me.”

Four scholarship linebackers have gotten the majority of playing time this year — Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens, Adam Herring and Eltoro Freeman. Freeman’s playing time has been limited as he’s struggled to make the transition from junior college.

Pybus, a freshman All-SEC selection last year, has not played in a game this year.

Gaston has played a limited role in four games, meaning he would be ineligible for a medical redshirt this year.

That leaves Auburn with scholarship freshman Jonathan Evans and walk-ons Wade Christopher and Ashton Richardson as other possibilities at linebacker.

It's Wednesday night, so I've got a three-pronged list of things you should do:
  1. Follow the blog on Twitter if you're not already doing so.
  2. Join tomorrow's LIVE chat at 1 p.m. ET/noon CT.
  3. And read the rest of these late notes from Wednesday's practice.
  • Philip Pierre-Louis’ solid job of catching punts against Tennessee hasn’t solidified anything in the return game for the Arkansas game. Chizik said the team still has not chosen its punt returner for this Saturday and will use today’s practice and Friday’s special teams functions to make that decision. Freshman Anthony Gulley began the Tennessee game as the punt returner but got dinged up on kickoff coverage. Pierre-Louis replaced him, returning two punts for nine yards and making three fair catches, something Auburn returners have struggled to do this season.
  • That didn’t impress special teams coach Jay Boulware too much, though. “He caught three of them that he was supposed to catch, and one of them he should have caught and ran for maybe 15 yards or so,” Boulware said. “So we’re still searching guys. We haven’t found the answer. I wouldn’t sit there and dub him the king because he did what he was supposed to do." What in the heck did PPL do to tick these guys off anyway.
  • And another quote from Boulware on the punt returns: "We've gotten a little bit spoiled right now because we've dropped a few, it's like, 'Just give me somebody back there that can catch that.' ... We want somebody who’s going to go back there and catch it and advance the football. That’s kind of what we’re looking for, whoever does that for us.”
  • Freshman defensive end Nosa Eguae continues to make progress from a right foot injury he suffered just before the start of the season, but coaches didn’t give a timetable for his return.
  • Eguae shed his protective boot a few weeks ago but continues to spend the majority of time during practice in the indoor facility while the rest of the team is outdoors, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. The 6-foot-2, 244-pound Eguae was excited before the season about getting an opportunity to play right away. But since he was injured, junior Antoine Carter has returned to provide depth at end and freshman Dee Ford has been a effective, particularly in third-down situations.
  • Rocker has tried to keep Eguae’s spirits up. “(I’m) making sure he stays confident, feels good about himself, keeps working hard (in the) weight room,” Rocker said. “He’s very mature for his age. There’s no doubt it bothers him. If it didn’t bother him, I’d be worried.”
  • Rocker said Antoine Carter is getting closer to full speed but it will probably take another week or so.
  • Sophomore DB D’Antoine Hood (Central-Phenix City) has been moving back and forth from safety to corner lately. He’s also working some in the nickel package. Hood, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in the preseason, has played in only two games this year.
  • Chizik didn’t say if suspended RG Byron Isom would play this week. "If you use him on the field right now, he’ll have done everything he needs to do to be in an Auburn uniform," he said. I'll be honest, I'm getting sick of that line.
  • Celebration penalties have been in the news lately because of the flap surrounding the SEC's incorrect call against Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green last week against LSU. Chizik weighed in Wednesday: "If you’re going to celebrate, make sure you celebrate with your teammates and hand the ball to the official. We try to, every day, impart that on our guys but sometimes the excitement of the moment can get you. They have to be very cognizant of that rule."
  • Chizik thinks the celebration penalty is a fine line: "That’s tough. I mean. It’s really up to the discretion of the officials. That’s part of being an official. That’s the same thing as a pass interference call. I don’t know how you can define it more. I know they do their best to call it and a lot of it’s kinda up to the guy. You hope the rule prevents that. It’s still a judgement call in a lot of ways. It’s one of those kind of tough areas and I don’t know how you make it more specific to tighten it up."
  • Wes Byrum is 10-for-11 on field goal opportunities. Don't think that hasn't gone unnoticed. "We preach E4 in our room," Boulware said. "We talk about energy, energize, edge and execute. He energizes our football team every time he knocks it through. I don't care what point of the game it is."
  • By the way, I think Boulware is cheating the E4 deal. Energy and energize? C'mon. Those are the same thing. I think E3 would have worked better. It even rhymes.
  • Rocker called Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett "the NFL guy." Needless to say, he's impressed. "It's all true what they say about him," Rocker said. "He's very competitive and he's a great athlete."
  • Safeties coach Tommy Thigpen had similar praise for Mallett, and I really wish I had this quote in time for my story on Arkansas' offense that I had to write earlier tonight. Oh well. "He's as good as anyone we're going to face," Thigpen said. "You can't find a bigger arm than what we're going to see this weekend. He can throw it. The last arm I saw like this was (Ben) Roethlisberger and then before that it was (Byron) Leftwich at Marshall. I always looked at those guys because when they can be on one hash and throw the 45-yard out to the field and put it on a rope like it was a slant route, he can do that. His arm is as big as anybody in college football and it is pretty darn accurate. So this is a major test for us on the back end as far as playing our assignments and reading keys and just making sure we can tackle in open space."
  • Mallett is 6-foot-7, although Rocker doesn't think that will create any problems for his guys. "A lot of times when everyone is talking, 'You’ve got to get to the quarterback,’" he said. "Well, I understand getting to the quarterback, but to get to the quarterback you’ve got to defeat the guy who is in front of you first. It’s going to be important for us, No. 1, to stop the run. After that, the second phase will be handling him."
  • Rocker has played plenty of backups this year, putting them all in on a shift. "I made it clear from Day 1, as we go along, twos are vital. The thing I have to say about the two is, 'Hey, we go out there against Tennessee and we get a three-and-out.' Next (series), we get a three-and-out. Next (series), the twos went in there. And the goal is, they got a three-and-out. That builds confidence with them, it makes me feel good about it and they felt more comfortable. That's the thing you're trying to do. Twos are vital in this league. It goes back to, back when I was here playing, coach (Wayne) Hall would play the ends of the field. It just depends on how the game is going. It depends on where the field position is. You try to play the game and it depends on how the game is going and the momentum is swaying. Most of all, you don't want big plays. You want them to be solid and keep building that confidence. Hey, I can't not play 'em. I've got to play 'em. 'Cause I'm going to need 'em not just in October, I'm going to need in November."
  • Thigpen commented about the situation at safety once Mike McNeil comes back from a broken leg suffered last spring. Freshman Daren Bates has been a pleasant surprise in his absence: "He's been out there and going through drills and things. We're not going to rush him. He still has a little limp. But man, it's refreshing to see him back and you know he's going to be back 100 percent just watching him. You can tell he's chomping at the bit to get out there. He's going through drills as far as trying to hit guys. It's very encouraging to watch Mike out there to know at some point we'll get him back and that will add that much depth to us. The more competition we get on that back end the better we're going to be. And that's what it's going to bring. Because when somebody's looking around saying 'OK, when Mike comes back, who's going to be the guy?' Well, the best two players are going to play. With that, the harder those kids are going to work. I told them today 'You miss a class, you might not play again.' That's what we want to have. We want to have it where those guys are comping at the bit to get better and you have guys right behind you that want your position."
  • That being said, Thigpen said McNeil isn't ready to play quite yet.


Unknown said...

" Hey, I can't not not play 'em."
...The rare triple negative...I'm impressed

War Eagle AC-47 said...

Stop the run, then go after the quarterback. Sounds like a strategy.

Rocker is making do with limited resources at linebacker. I like the way he is working defensive guys in. Man, we are woefully thin in places.

I think we can handle Arkansas. Our D is better than theirs, in spite of our limited depth.

Todd is putting up comparable numbers with Mallet. We have a very strong group of running backs, and a terrific playbook. Our offense will score against their defense.

We just have to get enough points early to give the D a cushion at the end of the game. That is critical.

AUsome04 said...

"If you use him on the field right now, he’ll have done everything he needs to do to be in an Auburn uniform," he said. I'll be honest, I'm getting sick of that line.

Well maybe beat writers should pay attention. Coach said he does not discuss injuries or suspensions.Period. It's not fair to the student athletes. How about we worry about who is playing. Just like PPL, everybody clamored for information on his situation. Then when the kid finally gets in and plays, I haven't read one feature story about his triumphant return after so long. It's like the media always wants to report the negative. How about a story on Eddins' or Sullen's first start instead of worrying about who is not on the field. (This is not totally directed to you Andy; because the Alabama beat writers are relentless; especially Evan Woodbama; he likes reporting the bad.)

Andy Bitter said...

A couple things ...

1) I gladly would have written a PPL feature this week. He was requested numerous times and scratched off the list by Chizik. (Furthermore, the coaches still aren't enamored by the kid for some reason. Just read Jay Boulware's quotes about him.)

2) I did write an Eddins story. I would have written a Sullen story last week, but he too was scratched from the list.

3) Just because a coach says he does not talk about suspensions or injuries does not mean it is not our jobs to ask him about it. The coach does not set the agenda in media settings. The media does. If he wants to no comment, fine. But he's recycled this do everything to be in an Auburn uniform line before.

4) Coaches who treat injury situations like nuclear secrets are ridiculous. In Bobby Bowden's heyday, he would rattle off an update of injury updates at the beginning of his press conferences, just to get it out of the way. By not commenting on injuries or suspensions, he opens it up to further speculation. If I were a coach, I'd be up front about it and make it less of an issue.

Aeronaut said...


Are the stories, or the ideas that go in print suggested by the Athletics Department? or is the commonality of thought between different beat writers a coincidence?

Or should I not ask that question?

By the way, I'm getting a hang of your blog. I'm liking it. I'm perfectly happy with the coaches not disclosing injuries and medical conditions. That is a personal matter, however, it would be good if the coaches could give us a tentative (or percentage) on recovery.

AUsome04 said...

Hey no problem Andy. You're the best beat writer out there. I just got so tired of Tuberville's transparency to the media so much. I like how Chizik sewed a few things up on the plains. You never know what an opposing team is looking for. Ole Miss closed their practices for the first time in forever this week. Just think, we're in the same state as the team they play.