Focus For Football Tigers Changing

As Auburn wrapped up spring football practice, Coach Gene Chizik talks about what he saw and what he wants to see from his 2011 football team.

Auburn, Ala.--With spring practice number 15 in the books the Auburn football team changes its focus before returning to the practice field again for preseason drills that will start in August.

By the time that happens the Tigers should have their regular practice fields ready for use. They are being totally redone as part of the addition of a new indoor practice facility that is on schedule to be done by the first of August.

Coach Gene Chizik said he was pleased with his team's progress from practice one through 15 this spring, but said his rebuilding squad is a work in progress with "a lot of room to grow."

Chizik told his players on Monday that they need to keep working in the offseason to be ready for challenges from a highly-regarded signee class that will arrive in large numbers this summer.

The coach said he will have no issues playing those true freshmen immediately if they are deserving of playing time. "There will be great competition going on in the summer," Chizik said.

Commenting on Monday's two-hour practice in helmets and shorts at the Hutsell-Rosen Track and Field and the women's soccer complex, Chizik said, "We tried to touch up on some things that we felt like from Saturday's scrimmage we needed to get cleared up. Overall, at the end of 15 days I feel like it was very productive.

"We gathered a lot of information on different players that we are going to need as we move forward trying to finalize what our roster is going to look like next year," the coach said.

"We have got our whole summer in front of us," Chizik added. "Our expectation is that the whole team is working extremely hard to build on what we started to accomplish these 15 days. A lot is going to depend on what they do voluntarily."

Chizik said the team is entering the time of year for players to make sure they get caught up academically if they need to do that while the coaches are on the road evaluating prospects and studying opponents to get a head start on game planning for the upcoming season.

As the head coach said after the A-Day Game, the competition for the starting quarterback spot is expected to continue into preseason practice in August when junior Barrett Trotter and sophomore Clint Moseley will have a newcomer in the mix, five-star recruit Kiehl Frazier.

Trotter said he was encouraged by what he saw in the A-Day Game. "I thought we got better as a team and better as an offense," he noted. "We might not have moved the ball as well as we wanted to, but we had some really big plays, explosive plays, and those are positive things."

Barrett Trotter prepares to throw a pass.

Trotter said he was happy with how he threw the football. He was 6-12 passing with no interceptions and tossed several perfect passes on the very windy day that were dropped. "Despite the wind it was a nice day for a scrimmage, a great day to be outside and it was a lot of fun," he said.

Moseley pointed out that after watching video of the scrimmage, which featured just one touchdown on a pass by Trotter, that it "wasn't as bad as I thought it was."

Moseley noted it was a much better overall spring for him to show what he could do than last year because he got a much greater opportunity to compete for the starting job than a year ago when Cameron Newton ended the spring as the starter and Trotter finished as the top backup ahead of Neil Caudle and Moseley.

Asked if he got better from the start to the finish of spring drills this year, Moseley said, "There is no doubt. I have been in this offense a while--it feels like forever--and I still learned a lot of things. Believe it or not, there are still some plays I am a little bit wary about and I am going to have to go in and watch the film and get in as many reps as I can this summer. Overall, I definitely feel I improved from the first practice."

The former Alabama Mr. Football added that the key to his improvement was getting a chance to rep extensively with the first offense as he shared the first team snaps with Trotter throughout the spring.

"It is so much different going out there with the group of ones having that confidence--I know these guys know what they are doing, I know these receivers can make plays, I know this running back is going to pick up his blitz and/or make plays on the ground. That is the key. When you have confidence in those guys I can play my game."

Clint Moseley throws a pass in the A-Day contest.

In other news:

*After watching video of the A-Day Game, Chizik said it was similar to what the coaches saw in previous scrimmages. The coach noted the Tigers missed opportunities to make more plays in the passing game with quarterbacks not getting the ball to receivers at times and receivers not making plays on catchable balls at times.

"It was very generic with base offense and base defense," he said of the A-Day scrimmage, adding that for the most part players on offense and defense did a good job with their assignments.

*One of the big pluses for the Tigers is that the team had a relatively injury-free spring and Chizik noted that everybody got through the A-Day contest without mishap.

*Chizik said the rebuilding offensive line made progress in the spring and the coaching staff got a better feel about which player will fit where. Working with the ones on Saturday were A.J. Greene and Brandon Mosley at tackle, Jared Cooper and John Sullen at the guard spots and walk-on Blake Burgess at center.

Reese Dismukes (50) participated in spring after graduating from Spanish Fort High in December.

Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said that Burgess is locked in a close competition for a starting spot with early high school graduate Reese Dismukes, who made progress throughout the spring.

Brandon Mosley played right tackle in the spring game, but he also worked on the left side at times in spring drills.

*Chizik said that highly recruited signees Christian Westerman and Greg Robinson, who will be on the practice field in August, will have a chance to compete for starting spots.

*The position coaches are doing post-spring training reviews with each of their players to tell them what they are doing well and what they need to improve on to get ready for the 2011 season. "We are very candid about where every player stands in terms of relationship to other players competing for jobs," Chizik said.

*The head coach, who was grand marshal at Sunday's NASCAR event that featured Michael Waltrip driving an Auburn themed car, said he enjoyed the trip to Talledega and it got his attention of how "extremely loud" it was at the track when the cars cranked up their engines.

*Chizik, a former secondary coach, said he saw improvement in that group this spring, but more is needed. He said that the cornerback play last season was not up to his standards and that is a focus for improvement this fall. He said there is "no question" that incoming signees will get a shot to show what they can do to improve the situation.

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