Friday Football Practice News, Notes, Quotes

The Tigers put on the shoulder pads for contact work for their third preseason football practice. Comments from players and coaches are featured in this report.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn's first-year defensive line coach, Mike Pelton, said he liked the energy he is seeing from his young group of tackles and ends.

"They are young, but they want to work and I see them competing so that is why we are excited about them," Pelton said after the Tigers put on shoulder pads for the first time this preseason on Friday evening.

"They took some lumps, but I saw what I needed to see with them competing," he added. "Nobody said it was going to be easy, but I enjoy the group. They work, they are eager, they are starving for knowledge and I am really enjoying coaching those guys.

Mike Pelton left supervises a blocking sled drill on Friday.

"Watching how they responded to a little adversity (in one on one drills with the offensive line), they bounced right back," the coach said. "The first day was encouraging, but we have a long way to go with those guys."

Pelton said it is scary to be counting on so many young players to compete in the SEC, but said he is encouraged by the work ethic he is seeing.

The Tigers are counting on help up front from four freshmen--Angelo Blackson, Jabrian Niles, Devaunte Sigler and Gabe Wright. "Those four freshmen, they are all together now," said Pelton, who noted it is too early to know who is going to play this season. "There is not one guy I can single out now saying he is doing better than any of them. I have seen some good from all of them and some bad from all of them."

Pelton said he wants to get at least five guys ready to play at the two tackle positions and would like six players outside to handle the two end spots.

In other news and notes from Friday's practice, number three for the defending national champions this preseason:

*Head coach Gene Chizik said the Tigers are still waiting on word on whether transfer running back Mike Blakely will be allowed to play this fall or whether or not he has to redshirt. Blakely enrolled at Florida in January after graduating early from high school before transferring to Auburn in May.

*Chizik said he thought the Tigers tried to be physical in Friday's workout. "I thought the whole team embraced the concept of being physical today and they tried to do it."

*With the heat index well over 100 degrees, Chizik sent the Tigers into their new indoor facility for the final 30 minutes of the workout to beat the heat. "I was really wanting them to focus in and try to get better at their trade," the coach said. "I think the tempo went up when we went in there."

*Chizik said that he doesn't have a problem with the modern practice rules that allow only three two-a-days in preseason. He said it is a plus for the health and safety of the players and that is why he likes it.

Jake Holland (left) runs a drill with freshman linebacker Anthony Swain (right) on Friday evening.

*Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes had praise for senior guard Jared Cooper after Friday's practice. He said that nobody is going to outwork Cooper, a player he said leads the offensive line by example.

Jared Cooper, a fifth-year senior, is making a push to break into the starting lineup at guard. He opened preseason drills running with the first team offense.

*Grimes said that another guard, redshirt freshman Eric Mack, is making progress because he has lost more than 30 pounds since last year. However, Grimes cautioned the former prep All-American still has a long way to go.

Eric Mack blocks DeVaunte Sigler in a one-on-one drill.

*Junior offensive guard John Sullen comes into the first year with one college start, which came when he was a true freshman. Sullen ended spring drills at the top of the depth chart and hopes to stay there. In the summer of his freshman year he weighed around 360 pounds, but has dropped weight and currently checks in at 325 after recently gaining weight.

"Coach wants me down to 315," Sullen said. "I will get there during camp and be ready for the first game." Sullen said he isn't having a problem carrying his current weight. "I am still moving well," he said. "A big man who ca move is nice."

*Freshman offensive tackle Greg Robinson noted that he still has a lot to learn, but said if he learns his assignments and does what the coaches want him to do he believes he will have a chance to play this year.

Robinson is working at left tackle and says he believes that is his best spot because he is tall with long arms. He is currently 6-5, 312 pounds and said he feels like he is in good shape after being on campus working out this summer.

*Freshman offensive guard Christian Westerman had a good day in the one-one-one drills vs. fellow freshman Angelo Blackson. Westerman played high school ball at much higher level than Blackson and it showed.

*Running backs coach Curtis Luper said that he sophomore Mike Dyer is in good shape at 215 pounds, which he said is a good weight for the tailback.

Tailback Michael Dyer takes a break at Friday evening's practice.

*Luper said that freshman running back Tre Mason, who just joined the team this week, is in good shape for a player who wasn't on campus all summer doing conditioning drills with his new teammates. Mason said he worked out at a LA Fitness gym near his home in Lake Worth, Fla., and also ran at the local track.

*Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor said Travante Stallworth is making a strong comeback from a knee injury and surgery he suffered as a true freshman in 2009. He noted that Stallworth is getting some reps with the first offense.

*Taylor said he likes the potential he is seeing from freshman C.J. Uzomah, a 6-6, 248-pounder from North Gwinnett High in Suwanee, Ga., where he was a quarterback and receiver. Taylor said that Uzomah is smart and is picking up the offense quickly playing as a slot receiver. Taylor joked that he asked to borrow Uzomah's body for the weekend.

*Sophomore defensive tackle Jeffrey Whitaker said after practice he is impressed with the athletic ability and energy of the three true freshman defensive tackles and defensive end DeVaunte Sigler.

*Tommy Thigpen, the safeties coach, had praise for redshirt freshman walk-on Trent Fisher after practice tonight. Thigpen said that the former Christ Presbyterian Academy standout from Nashville is a very smart player who will help the Tigers this year. He is the son of former NFL head coach Jeff Fisher.

*Thigpen also said he likes the athletic ability of the 2011 defensive back signees and noted those are the type of players that are needed to win at the highest level of college football.

*Auburn's first preseason scrimmage is scheduled for Wednesday.

*The Tigers will hit the field at 5 p.m. on Saturday for their fourth practice and will be off on Sunday.

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