Coach Gene Chizik said the only thing the Tigers can do to try to overcome the lack of experience up front is "keep practicing." Four of the five starters on the 2010 football team were seniors. Two of the four starters on the 2010 defensive front were seniors and a third starter, junior Nick Fairley, left to enter the NFL Draft.
"It's tough in this league, that is where games are won and lost on both sides of the ball," Chizik said about the competition on the line of scrimmage. "We are in a position right now where on both sides of the ball we have extremely young people so as I told our team as we started four practices ago our experience is practice.
"I know you don't want to say that," Chizik added. "You want to say game experience, but this is what we have got. This is where we are at."
With depth an issue at defensive tackle where there are just four scholarship players left after losing three players from the 2010 team, Chizik said the coaching staff is trying to be smart in how it approaches practices.
"We have really, really harped on the physicality of the game and how important it is to what we believe in and where we think we have to go to develop," Chizik said. "We will continue to do that.
"On the flip side of that we have some numbers we have to be careful of because we want to be practicing with the same guys five practices from now, but I am very, very pleased right now with the level of focus from all of those you guys. You can tell they are very intent. They listen to what you are saying. They are trying to do the things you tell them to do."
However, the head coach said the Tigers have plenty of work to do. "We are so far off and we know that," he said.
"We have tried to make the these practices, the two in pads, as physical as we can on both sides of the line of scrimmage because we know that is where we are going to have to be so much better when the season starts."
The Tigers, who will return to practice on Wednesday, are scheduled to have their first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday. Chizik said that the goal this spring is come out of spring with an established first team with backups at every position, however, he notes that will be subject to change by the time the Tigers open the season vs. Utah State.
With the Tigers down to 53 scholarship players for spring practice, Chizik said the team will need help from newcomers when preseason practice starts in August. "The fact of the matter is we are going to have to play true freshmen," he said.
In other news:
*Running backs coach Curtis Luper and Chizik said that Anthony Gulley Morgan has a chance to contribute at tailback as a junior after spending his sophomore season at cornerback. "I like him," Chizik said. "He is a tough young man. He is willing to do whatever he can for Auburn and he has done that. He has played offense, he has played defense he has played special teams, but not it is time for him to grow up and step up to the plate because he is going to be a junior."
Chizik said he told Morgan he wants him to be able to contribute "significantly" this fall. "I feel like he feels at home there," Chizik said of Morgan's move to tailback. "I feel like it is natural when you watch him run the ball."
Anthony Gulley Morgan played cornerback last season, but is working with the running backs this spring.
*Chizik said after Monday's practice that defensive tackles Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter will be counted on heavily this fall. "Those guys have got to step it up," the coach said. "There is no more ‘I am a true freshman.' They have got to understand now what it like down there and they have got to produce. Coach (Mike) Pelton, I am very confident, will get these guys in the right direction."
*Chizik said he thought Monday's workout was a "good practice" making it four for four with spring practices getting a thumbs up from the head coach.
*Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said the first week of practice has been a "rollercoaster ride." He said he had a long talk with his players about what he expects from them regarding their assignments and being physical football players. "Overall, I think the kids have really worked hard," he said. "I can see the difference in the way they are approaching practice and the game because they have learned a lot from those guys before them. Obviously, because we have been together now for a while and they know the expectations there."
With the wide receiver numbers being down this spring through graduation and attrition, including having Shaun Kitchens and Antonio Goodwin kicked off the team last month, Taylor is giving the 2010 receivers, including the walk-ons, plenty of attention this spring. He mentioned Cody Frederick, a 6-4, 199 redshirt freshman from Hamilton, as a walk-on who is making progress.
Commenting on Kitchens and Goodwin, who were arrested on a robbery charge, Taylor said he is staying in contact with those two players. "I may not agree with what they did, but you don't stop loving family," he stated.
Trovon Reed catches a pass in practice.
*Taylor had praise for redshirt freshman wide receiver Trovon Reed, who is getting some work this spring as a running back. Last year, before he was injured and got a medical hardship redshirt, he was successful running the football as a wildcat quarterback.
"Trovon is so quick and he is such a competitor," Taylor said. "With Trovon you only have to tell him once. If you correct him on something, you don't ever have to worry about it again. He will stay after practice and you will look and he will be walking through something on his own trying to correct something that you five him because he has so much pride coming into our meeting room and not having to say, ‘Trovon, what are you doing here?' That kind of deal.
"Trovon is so loyal he never wants to let anybody down. I think that is what he brings to the table and he is 100 percent in on the family deal. These are his brothers as far as he is concern."