QB Battle On Tap for Auburn's A-Day Game

The Auburn football team worked out on Friday to prepare for Saturday's spring football game that will be played at Jordan-Hare Stadium where a big crowd is expected to check out the action

Auburn, Ala.--Practice 13 of 15 this spring was a tune-up for Saturday's A-Day football scrimmage as the Auburn Tigers worked for two hours in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on Friday.

The A-Day Game is scheduled to kick off at 2 p.m. on Saturday and associate athletic director Scott Carr said a crowd of approximately 60,000 is expected to see the defending national champions.

Tickets, which are $5, will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Saturday at the ticket office at the Auburn Arena, at Jordan-Hare Stadium and at the Plainsman Park ticket office. Additionally, tickets are on sale through Friday at Auburn area bookstores.

Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Gus Malzahn said the game on Saturday will be important for junior Barrett Trotter and sophomore Clint Moseley, who are locked in a tight battle for the No. 1 spot.

Malzahn said he will be grading the QBs on how they communicate and lead the offense in the scrimmage. "It is probably more important for the quarterbacks than the rest of them," he noted.

In 2009 the coach waited until August to name Chris Todd the starter. Last year he named Cameron Newton the starting QB shortly after spring drills ended. "We are not for sure right now," Malzahn said about when he would be ready to pick his No. 1. "Probably after tomorrow we will meet--me and Coach (Gene) Chizik--and see where we are at."

The coach added that he is still giving both QBs an "equal chance" to win the assignment and said that some days in practice Trotter has performed better and other days it has been Moseley.

"In my mind there has not been a whole lot of separation," Malzahn added. "At the end of it (spring drills), we will look at every practice, we will look at every snap. We have been charting completions, touchdowns, interceptions, fumbles, everything. We will take that into account."

Kiehl Frazier will get a shot at the job in August. "I think all freshmen will get their shot early in fall camp," the coach stated. "The thing about it, all of the freshman will have to impress us early in a nine to 10 practice deal where they will have to come on."

Malzahn said the Tigers have close to 50 percent of the offense installed heading into the A-Day game. He noted that he will be watching how well his guys handle their assignments in game-like conditions.

"We do have so many young, inexperienced guys," Malzahn said. "For a lot of them it will be their first time in front of a crowd to see how they react, to see how they respond. They either do one of two things. Either they step up and rise to the occasion or you can see them nervous so we will find out a lot as coaches to see where we are at."

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Chad Slade said that his focus in spring training is making sure he improves his technique. One of the more versatile players on the roster, Slade is working at left tackle, right tackle, right guard and left guard.

"Coach has been playing me at left tackle this week and that is where I?am most comfortable," he said.

Chad Slade will be a redshirt freshman this fall.

A player who had a limited amount of experience on the offensive line when signed out of Moody High, Slade wanted to redshirt and said that went well. "I learned a lot being around and watching the older guys on the team," he said.

He noted that the lengthy practice time the Tigers got in Auburn and in Arizona before playing in the BCS Championship Game helped him get a head start on spring training this year. "That bowl practice was a plus,"?he said. "I know that helped me and Eric Mack a lot. We used that to get better and hopefully we can be in the next group of offensive linemen they are counting on."

In addition to working with the tackles, guards and centers on their technique, what has been the other major theme of the spring with the guys up front on offense? "Coach Grimes has been telling us we have to be the toughest offensive line in the nation," Slade said.

"I feel like I have gotten better since the start of spring," Slade said. "I want to keep improving and hopefully earn a starting position."

Another member of Slade's recruiting class, middle linebacker Jake Holland, is running with the first stringers this spring with last year's starter Josh Bynes gone.

"Getting in there at my position it is important to take a leadership role," Holland said. "I am trying to do that and I am working on a few techniques here and there. Overall, I feel like I have had a pretty good spring."

"I have gotten better at communication and better at seeing things better," the linebacker said. "When you know what to do based on the pre-snap formation that helps you get to the ball faster. This spring I feel like I?have become more physical and I am still working on that."

Middle linebackers traditionally are leaders on defense. "That is a responsibility I am trying to take on," Holland said. "Josh was a good leader for us last year on defense and I am trying to take over that role he was so good at last year. I definitely learned a lot from him"

Holland is backed up by senior Eltoro Freeman, a player who has had a good spring, according to defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Ted Roof. "He has come a long way," Roof said of Freeman. "He is doing real well."

In other news:

*Malzahn said the offense will be "vanilla" on Saturday, but said that fans attending should have the opportunity to see his guys "make plays."

*Fans attending the game on Saturday can use the same game day shuttles that are available for regular season contests.

*The BCS National Championship Trophy will be on display from 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Lovelace Hall of Honor at the Auburn Arena. Fans can bring cameras and take photos of the trophy.

*A punt, pass and kick contest for boys and girls in grades 3-6 will be also be held on the intramural fields. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m. Winners for each grade and division (boys and girls) will receive an Auburn prize package and also be recognized on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium during halftime of the A-Day game.

*Malzahn said the rebuilding offensive line is "getting closer" to identifying who the top five will be. He said in the past week there has been an improvement in the linemen properly executing their assignments.

*Early high school graduate Reese Dismukes is improving every day in practice, said Malzahn, who noted that he is in a competitive battle for the starting role at center with redshirt sophomore Blake Burgess.

*Roof said that another early high school graduate, Jonathan Rose, has made progress in his head start this spring.

*Roof said the defensive coaches will be evaluating how the players handle the fundaments, their effort and their pursuit angles during the A-Day Game. Like Malzahn, he said that the whole defensive package won't be on display on Saturday, but he noted it will be important to observe how the young players respond to playing in front of a large crowd.

The defensive coach added that the attitude and work ethic have been good this spring. He said there have been some bumps in the road, but his guys "don't stay there long."


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