Chizik: Look For Plenty of Freshmen to Play

Coach Gene Chizik said he liked what he saw as the Auburn football Tigers opened preseason practice.

Auburn, Ala.--The youthful 2011 Auburn football Tigers opened preseason practice under the lights and went late into the night on Wednesday to avoid a conflict with summer semester final exams.

Gene Chizik, beginning his third year as head coach of the Tigers, gave the 2 1/2-hour session a strong thumbs up review.

"I thought it was a very energetic, really enthusiastic practice and really and truly for the first night was pretty sharp for the most part," Chizik said.

"I was really impressed with our young guys, meaning our freshman class," Chizik said. "Some guys really showed some impressive athleticism, I thought, across the board. Of course, without pads on it is sort of an unrealistic picture, but again I am just really impressed with their effort and focus...Obviously, we have got to get better every day."

With so many young players, Chizik said the coaching staff is well aware that it is going to have to do a thorough job of teaching this year.

"We did not recruit our freshmen to watch," the coach said. "We recruited them to come in and play. We told them that when we recruited them."

Chizik said that if the Tigers need to play 15 to 20 true freshmen this year the coaching staff is not going to be reluctant to do that. "We are going to have to do our best coaching job since we have been here," he said.

Auburn's remodeled practice facility is shown that includes a new fieldhouse (at right).

Asked what he hopes to accomplish the first week of practice, Chizik said there are so many positions up for grabs, both offensively and defensively, that will be the focus. "Ironically, the place where we have the most experience is on special teams," he said. "That is where a lot of our team that is returning from last year, that is where most of them contributed," he said.

"We have so many vacancies at positions, so many wide open positions, we are just looking every day to close the gap and narrow in on who the starters are going to be, who the two-deep are going to be," he said. "There are many cases where we don't have a two-deep. The first week is really all working toward determining who our top two guys are, not just the first one. We have so many freshmen who are going to be playing. There is no way around that.

"Our scholarship count is in the low, low, low seventies," Chizik added. "You do the math and a bunch of them are going to be playing, which is no problem. We are going to play the ones we think are going to give us the best chance to win. That is what we are going to do this week. By the end of this week we want to say, ‘How far are we in trying to figure out or solve the problem of our two-deep?'

In other news and notes from practice one:

*Chizik said he is not concerned about preseason predictions that his team will struggle this year after going 14-0 last year. "That is what makes college football great--everybody has got opinions," the coach said. He pointed out that last year he didn't remember hearing predictions that his team would be the BCS champs and added, "I don't have the time or energy to worry about it."

*The head coach said that Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley and newcomer Kiehl Frazier all did a good job at practice on Wednesday night. Moseley said he took the field feeling much more confident about understanding and directing the offense than he did in his previous two preseasons at Auburn.

Clint Moseley throws a pass on Wednesday night.

*Moseley has been joined by his former high school teammate, freshman wide receiver Sammie Coates. He notes that Coates is a much faster and better player than he was on the Leroy High state championship team when Moseley was a senior and Coates was a sophomore.

*Junior T'Sharvan Bell, who started three games last season at cornerback, is expected to make a strong push to be the full-time starter with the Tigers having to replace starter Demond Washington, a senior in 2010, plus Neiko Thorpe, a starter at corner who is now playing free safety.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof says that Bell made major strides as a player in 2010 and he has the potential to do that in 2011. "I am proud of the progress he has made,"?the coach says.

Bell says the players on defense are excited about the potential to be improved compared to last year. "With the coaches we have, the sky is the limit," Bell proclaims. "We have great coaches and we have got great kids that are very coachable."

Bell says he feels like he is in great shape. "I am 187 pounds and that is my mean, lean weight thanks to Coach Yox," he says of Kevin Yoxall, Auburn's strength and conditioning coach.

*Another defensive player who says the offseason workout program has been good to him is sophomore end Corey Lemonier. "I have added 15 pounds since last season and am up to around 240 now," he says. "I think that will help me a lot this year."

Lemonier says he has been working out with the incoming freshman class that was ranked No. 1 nationally by Scout.com and likes what he sees. "Those guys have been working hard all summer to get ready to compete," he says, noting the group will have the chance to help the team early and often this season.

*High school All-American Erique Florence from nearby Valley High School said he and the other freshmen are excited about the opportunities they have to play early. "The coaches told us they didn't bring us in to stand on the sidelines and watch," the safety said.

The Tigers will return to the practice field on Thursday and will start at 4:30 p.m.

Gene Chizik talks to the Tigers at Wednesday night's practice.

*Offensive guard Ed Christian, a redshirt freshman who sat out of spring practice with a knee problem, was practicing with the team on Wednesday night.

*An ESPN crew will be at Auburn until the start of the season working on a video report on how the Tigers will develop a replacement for Cam Newton at quarterback. Chizik said he agreed to letting the ESPN cameras have access to practice because he believes it will good publicity for the program and good for recruiting.

*Chizik said it was important to get all of his signees into school because of the team's lack of numbers on scholarship He said that the Tigers brought in a large number of invited walk-ons to fill out the roster. He said that Auburn has a tradition of successful walk-ons, something he wants to see continue.

*Chizik said he loves and the players are excited about the state-of-the-art indoor facility that opened this week along with the re-designed outdoor practice fields.


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