The Tigers worked for two hours in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts at the practice fields. On Saturday they will have their second major scrimmage of the preseason at Jordan-Hare Stadium as the coaches continue to work on figuring out not only who their starters will be, but who the top backs will be on the depth chart.
Assistant head coach Trooper Taylor said that defensive ends Corey Lemonier and Dee Ford, who are in a battle for a starting position, were impressive in Friday's second practice. "They give us a great look," the coach said. "They give us a great look."
Taylor said the Tigers worked on the basics on Friday. "We are so young fundamentals will have to take over because everybody has got good players. The young players have got to understand the fundamentals, when all things are equal, will make a difference in winning and losing on each play. Some of them haven't realized that yet."
The coach said some of the young players are still learning assignments and trying to get lined up properly. However, he added. "Once we get these fundamentals down, I really think we will have a chance to be pretty decent."
Taylor said the plan is to strain the players as much as possible on Saturday to see how they will react in a game situation. "What we lack is experience. We have some guys who can run, we have some guys who are trying to play physical. The good thing is the older guys who were already on the team know what great looks like that. They understand that."
Offensive guard Christian Westerman has been getting plenty of attention from offensive line coach Jeff Grimes as the freshman pushes for early playing time. Asked if he has made progress as the Tigers head into scrimmage number two on Saturday, Westerman said, "I think I have and the rest of the guys have as well. Every day we are getting better. We are learning new things we didn't know in high school. I think it is helping a lot."
Asked if he believes he has a chance to be a starter this year, Westerman said, "I have got to keep working hard and we will see what happens."
Westerman had a reputation of being a physical player in high school and he is showing that in preseason drills. "One of my favorite things in football is being able to go out there and hit somebody and not get in trouble for it," said Westerman, who trained as a boxer when he was a youngster.
Commenting on the biggest challenge for him in moving from high school football to the college game, Westerman said, "The biggest transition is going against guys who are the same caliber or better than you.
"Trying to adjust to the speed and the different sizes and height, and the technique you have to use in college, it is a lot different than high school. Other than going out there and just knocking some heads, you have to use technique to push these guys off the ball. You have to be coachable to use the things the coaches tell you."
Grimes said he likes the way the offensive linemen and defensive linemen have been battling each other in practice and Westerman agrees. "Every day we are always getting after it out there," the lineman said. "The O-line is getting after it, the D-line is getting after it. It is just a very competitive day every day at practice."
Grimes noted that he likes the intensity and potential he is seeing from Westerman and fellow freshmen Reese Dismukes at center and Greg Robinson at tackle. The coach said each of the three newcomers has a chance to earn a starting job of play this fall.
Dismukes, an early high school graduate, got a head start by participating in spring practice where he began his battle for a starting spot with redshirt sophomore Blake Burgess, who noted that Dismukes is giving him real competition. "In my head it is very close," Burgess said when asked who was the No. 1 center. "I don't see a clear leader right now, but the Coach (Grimes) may."
In other news and notes:
Junior wide receiver Emory Blake, like his teammates, is eagerly waiting to find out who the starting quarterback will be with junior Barrett Trotter, sophomore Clint Moseley and freshman Kiehl Frazier competing for the assignment. "With Barrett and Clint, they are really throwing the ball in there very well, and so is Kiehl," Blake said.
"Kiehl is still in the process of learning all of the protections--not just learning his own job, but everyone else's because sometimes people mis-align and quarterbacks have to set them straight. That is what he is working on now.
"Barrett and Clint are already there, they know it, and they have been throwing the ball very well," Blake said.
*Taylor, who coaches the punt returners as well as the receivers, said that redshirt freshman Trovon Reed is showing promise as a return man on punts and kickoffs. "He really looks good," the coach said. "Trovon has grown up a bunch."
Taylor said that Reed is eager to succeed. He said a key to that happening is making sure he executes the plays properly and handles his blocking assignments. "With that ball in his hands, he is pretty good," Taylor said. "What we have got to get him better at is we have got to get him to block on the perimeter."
*The wide receivers coach said he has been impressed with how freshman Jaylon Denson has been performing. The former Hoover High is "doing really well," Taylor. "I have been really surprised because he will tell you when he first got here I didn't know how tough he was. I knew the program he came out was a tough program. I didn't know tough he was.
"He made a nice catch for a touchdown between two defenders (in Wednesday's scrimmage) and never flinched," Taylor said. "He ran a route that kind of got set up and the corner really crushed him. The best thing about it is he jumped right back up, ran another play and then came back and could barely breath. He didn't take himself off the field, we had to do it. That tells you that he has some toughness to him."
Taylor said he hopes to play all of his freshmen receivers. "We need all hands on deck," the coach said.
*Tight ends coach Jay Boulware had praise for Philip Lutzenkirchen on Friday night, saying the junior knows his assignments so well he is like a coach on the field. Boulware also noted he is encouraged by what he is seeing from freshman tight end Brandon Fulse.
*The Tigers will scrimmage on Saturday and practice one time on Sunday. The players will participate in Fan Day that runs from 2-4 p.m. CDT at the Auburn Arena. Admission is free and the gates open at 1:30 p.m.