Players, Coaches Like Saturday's Practice

Auburn players and Gene Chizik discuss football practice as the Tigers put on full pads for a session at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers put on their pads for the first time this spring with a 2 1/2-hour practice on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium that featured contact work with an emphasis on execution on both sides of the football.

Dee Ford, a backup defensive end the past two seasons who is trying to earn a starting spot for the 2011 season, said he thought the session went well. "All three of our practices have been good so far, but it's just three practices," he said. "We are just getting started and have a long way to go."

Dee Ford

Ford, who stands six feet, four inches tall, is one of the quicker defensive linemen the Tigers have had on the roster in recent years, but his lack of size has been an issue and has restricted his playing time.

"I am still working on getting bigger and I am eating a lot," he said with a smile. "I am up to 240 pounds now and that is a plus, but now I am working on getting to 250."

After two days of working out in shorts, Ford said he enjoyed putting on the pads for the team's first practice in the stadium this spring. "It was different and it was fun," he said. "With contact the technique is more critical and has to be more precise. As far as the fundamentals I think we got better at practice today."

In addition to gaining weight, Ford said his other primary goal is earning a starting job at defensive end and he adds, "I also want to become a better player all-around. I want to become a better man. That is what this game creates--a chance to be a better player and a better man so those are my goals."

Dee Ford is shown in a game last fall.

Auburn's head coach Gene Chizik agreed with Ford about the Tigers getting off to a solid start this spring. "I really thought the energy level was really high and they were really focused," Chizik said. "Now, we have only practiced three days so I am not buying stock in this yet, but we have had the third really good day of some extremely focused kids right now.

"I think that is really good because they understand the challenge of people really fighting for jobs," Chizik added. "The emphasis today was on the physicality being the first day in pads and running the ball and stopping the run was what we talked about--being physical at the point of attack on both sides of the ball.

"We did enough to get at least some initial evaluations on these young guys," said Chizik, who has noted that there a plenty of young players on this team who need to be evaluated in depth this spring.

Onterio McCalebb runs the football in Saturday's practice.

One of the three returning starters on defense, rising redshirt sophomore Nosa Eguae, predicted that by A-Day fans will see that the rebuilding Tigers are a good football team. "Come September we will show people that we are a really good football team," he added.

Commenting on his new position coach, Mike Pelton who replaced Tracy Rocker, Eguae said, "He is a real high energy guy like Coach Rock was. He brings the aspect of the details while Coach Rock was a go out there and ball type of guy.

"Coach Pelton, the first couple of days, he has been really into the details," Eguae noted. "He is a guy all of the players like to be around. He keeps it real with you and he is going to tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. You have got to love that with a coach."

Nosa Eguae began the 2010 season as a backup to senior Michael Goggans, but took over as the starting with good play as a reserve.

Eguae and the rest of the Tigers are scheduled to return to practice on Monday morning and will have workouts on three other days next week on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Wide receiver DeAngelo Benton is being counted on to step up and compete for a starting job this season. The rising junior said he thought the Tigers had a good workout on Saturday. "We are making progress," he said. "It is an exciting spring for me and I am trying to take advantage of my opportunity."

Benton noted that both of the quarterbacks competing for the starting spot, Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley, threw the ball well on Saturday. "That isn't a surprise," he said, noting that both are consistent passers.

In other news and notes:

*Chizik said the plan this spring is to keep Ladarious Phillips at fullback even though he weighs around 295 pounds. "We are working on a plan to get him a little bit lighter," he coach said, however Chizik noted that the redshirt freshman runs well and has agility despite being a few biscuits shy of 300 pounds.

Ladarious Phillips

Phillips practiced at fullback in preseason, but was injured in the final scrimmage before the opening game. He was healthy enough to practice prior to the bowl game and worked at both fullback and defensive tackle.

*Neiko Thorpe, who is making the move from cornerback to safety for his senior season, said so far the move is going fine, but admitted he still has plenty to learn. "I have felt myself comfortable out there, but there are still things I need to work on," he said.

Thorpe said the coaches approached him about a month before the start of spring practice asking him to think about moving to safety and he said that he decided to give the position a try.

*Linebacker Jawara White is still recovering from surgery he had on his neck last year and has yet to be cleared for full contact work. The 2010 signee, who redshirted last fall, is expected to be back in full contact action for preseason practices in August.

Chizik said he liked what he saw from the linebackers on Saturday. "They were trying to play fast," he said. "They made their share of mistakes, obviously, but again I think that is a position where there is a lot of competition going on with a lot of possibilities."

*The Tigers worked on their nickel package at practice on Saturday with T'Sharvan Bell and Ikeem Means working as the nickel backs.

*Means, who will be a junior this fall, is a walk-on from Wetumpka High School who has seen significant playing time the past two seasons. He is a prime candidate to be added to scholarship for the 2011 season with the Tigers having room to do that because of attrition through graduation of a senior class with 23 members and from players being dismissed from the team.

Chizik said that the "greatest team event" every season is when he announces the walk-ons who are being put on scholarship. "We do it in front of the whole team and to watch the scholarship players go absolutely crazy when they see their walk-on buddy get a scholarship there is nothing like," the coach said.

*In addition to practice on Saturday, the coaches are playing host to high school prospects in their third major junior day this year.

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