Defense Takes Charge During Scrimmage Two

Comments from coaches and players are featured in this report on Auburn's second major spring training scrimmage

Auburn, Ala.--The smile on the face of junior-to-be Dee Ford after Auburn's second major scrimmage of the spring told the story as the defense stepped up and dominated the offense in the two-hour session at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday.

"It was a blowout, baby," the defensive end told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "A blowout out for the defense," Ford added.

The scoreboard backed up what the defensive end had to say as the defense out-pointed the offense 51-15 in a system that rewards points for big plays in addition to scoring points the traditional way. The first major scrimmage, a week earlier, was close to a draw.

"You could tell as a team we are getting better," said Ford, a player who has "made strides" this year, head coach Gene Chizik said after the scrimmage.

"As a defensive player I can't tell a lot about the offense, but on defense I know we played with a lot of energy," Ford said. "You could tell the game was slowing down for us.

Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn told his players after the scrimmage they got whipped by the offense, but after the session defensive coordinator Ted Roof tempered his enthusiasm for what he saw because he noted there is still a lot of work needed on his side of the football.

"At times we did some really, really good things," Roof said. "We had too many peaks and valleys so we need to eliminate some of those mistakes. The good news is that they are all correctable, but we gave up too many big plays and we have to do a better job there. We have to make more big plays. It is a work in progress."

The Tigers got a lot of live scrimmage work in for the second and third team groups, which Roof said was by design with the A-Day spring game just a week away, which signals the end of spring drills. "We are trying to find out who the guys are we can really, really count on," he said.

Asked if the Tigers are close to coming up with a starting 11 on defense, Roof said. "No, no, no, no, not even close, not even close. There's still a lot of jobs that are up for grabs, just keep grinding it, and that's part of the deal. We've got to create more competition, create more competition against the people for jobs and also create competition with yourself. There are two ways to do that so we've got to continue to strive to compete harder."

Offensively, Clint Moseley got more work at quarterback than Barrett Trotter and had the more productive day. However, neither quarterback threw a touchdown pass. The only touchdown came late in the scrimmage with all third stringers on the field. Moseley did not throw an interception while Trotter had one pass picked by cornerback Chris Davis.

The head coach said he has not seen any separation in the quarterback battle featuring junior Trotter and sophomore Moseley. "The quarterbacks are very sporadic in general," he said.

Kenneth Carter sacks Barrett Trotter in Saturday's scrimmage.

Both quarterbacks had to deal with pressure from a very active defensive front. Ends Ford, Nosa Eguae and Craig Sanders all were very active and had quarterback sacks. After the scrimmage Chizik mentioned each of those players as guys who have improved.

The interior first stringers, Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter, had big plays, also. Whitaker said he thought the defense did some good things, but noted the group can play better. However, the sophomore admitted that the defensive front did some good things, particularly as the scrimmage progressed.

"We just have to keep chunking at it because Nick Fairley, Zach Clayton and all of those boys, they just didn't arrive, they worked at it," the defensive tackle said.

"If we want to be a good defense, that was an excellent scrimmage for us today," Whitaker added. "If we want to be great, that isn't going to cut it. To beat Alabama and Georgia in the fourth quarter, what we did today isn't going to cut it. We have to keep going and keep improving."

Chizik said he thought the scrimmage was productive and noted he thought the special teams period was "great" as the Tigers worked on punt coverage, punt returns and kickoff returns.

"I feel like the defense made some strides today," Chizik said. "We are very young, but I feel like there are some guys who are trying to play hard and play with a lot of energy." The coach said the tackling needs to improve and the defenders need to improve their pursuit angles.

"Offensively, we did some nice things," Chizik said. "We probably didn't protect the ball like we needed to today. There were a lot of different reasons for that in terms of continuity in terms of who was in there at center, quarterback, tailback and things of that nature."

Chizik added that the offense needs to make more "explosive plays" and be more effective running the ball. "There weren't as many explosive plays as there were the last scrimmage (a week ago.)."

Auburn's top running backs didn't get to touch the ball much in the running game. Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb combined for less than 10 carries in the scrimmage as they shared reps with walk-ons Davis Hooper and Chandler Shakespeare.

As was the case in the first scrimmage, the Tigers had some issues with the shotgun snaps. Early high school graduate Reese Dismukes got all of the work with the first team and second team at center while Blake Burgess was held out of action. Walk-on Ryan Preston worked with the threes at center.

Chizik noted that Dismukes is having to make adjustments playing against bigger and stronger defensive linemen. "I am really proud of him because I think he has been making some strides," the coach said. "I think he is finding out it is a little more difficult to muscle guys here as compared to the way he did in high school.

"Blake Burgess is obviously a guy who works his tail off to be good and he has made a lot of strides as well," Chizik said of the walk-on, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall. "We have got a good battle at that position."

"Overall, I was pleased with the day," Chizik said. "I thought the energy was a little low at the beginning and picked up as practice continued to move on."

With five more spring practices to go and 10 in the books, Chizik said the Tigers have a lot of work to get done.

New defensive line coach Mike Pelton makes a point during Saturday's scrimmage.

On the injury front, Anthony Gulley Morgan, who hurt a knee in Wednesday's practice, was held out of action on Saturday, but Chizik said he could be back in action before the end of spring.

Tunde Fariyike, a redshirt freshman offensive guard, was hurt on Saturday and left the stadium with his knee wrapped in ice.

Auburn is scheduled to return to practice on Monday.


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