Coaches Like Mini-Scrimmage, Walk-on Winners

The Tigers scrimmaged at Jordan-Hare Stadium with eight "new" scholarship players on the roster. The practice report includes a video interview with head coach Gene Chizik.

Auburn, Ala.--After taking Monday off from practice, the Tigers started their final two-a-days session of preseason football practice with a full pads workout at Jordan-Hare Stadium that included a short scrimmage featuring backups and younger players.

"This scrimmage was primarily designed for the young guys," said offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who gave true freshman Kiehl Frazier a chance to operate the offense in the session that featured less than 40 snaps.

Malzahn said the scrimmage will help the coaches see "who is really ready" to contribute in the opener vs. Utah State on Sept. 3rd. "We learned a lot today and it will be really good for us going into starting game planning."

Malzahn and head coach Gene Chizik said they are still not ready to name a starting quarterback yet. Asked if the quarterbacks are making it a difficult choice, Malzahn said, "Yes, I think that is fair to say, but like I said after the last scrimmage that is a good thing.

"We have got three quality quarterbacks and they are making it tough," the coach noted, adding that he and Chizik want to be "100 percent sure" they pick the right guy for the job like they did in 2009 and 2010.

"We do understand the timetable," Malzahn said. "We do understand it is getting down to the end and we need to try to make a decision. We will try to do that as soon as we are 110 percent sure."

Malzahn said the chances of Auburn playing more than one quarterback, other than in the wildcat formation, are "slim" because that is not the way he has operated in the past.

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof agreed with Malzahn that the coaching staff needed the scrimmage to give them a better idea of how ready the backups are for game action. "I feel good about where we are on defense, but we still have a long way to go," Roof said after the short scrimmage.

The practice was the first as "scholarship players" for a large group of walk-ons. Another player who originally came to Auburn on scholarship but left the team and returned as a walk-on last January, former U.S. Army All-American Aubrey Phillips, was put back on scholarship. None of the eight new scholarship players will count on the 25 scholarship players per year limit.

Aubrey Phillips

Sophomore center Chandler Brooks, redshirt sophomore center Blake Burgess, senior running back Davis Hooper, senior fullback Chris Humphries, junior safety Ikeem Means, sophomore offensive tackle Phillips, linebacker Ashton Richardson and senior wide receiver Nate Taylor are Auburn's newest scholarship players.

Blake Burgess, from Vestavia Hills, is pushing for a starting spot at center.

Chizik said he was excited to give out the scholarships to players who "absolutely, 100 percent deserved it."

"I really appreciate what they have done for Auburn and our football team," said the coach, who added, "It was really neat to see our team embrace that. All of the other guys were as excited, if not more, than the guys who received them. I am very proud of those guys."

Chizik was able to give out a large number of scholarships because the team is so far below its limit of 85 scholarship players. He said the philosophy of rewarding walk-ons is something he believes in continuing. "Our walk-on program is a huge part of who we are and what we do," Chizik said. "We will continue to do that as we have them available."

Chizik said he liked what he saw in the first of two practices on Tuesday. "There is no substitute for live 11 on 11," he noted. The night practice is expected to feature work on special teams play.

In addition to Phillips being out with an injury, Chizik said that sophomore Michael Dyer is still "banged up." He didn't give a specific timetable for Dyer's return, but did say he expected the team's leading returning rusher to be ready for the opener vs. Utah State on Sept. 3rd.

Video comments from Gene Chizik:

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