The physical play got the attention of assistant head coach Trooper Taylor after Wednesday night's workout. "Physical,"?he said when asked to describe the two-hour session in full pads. "That is the word I can use. It was a very, very physical practice.
"Guys were really getting after it," Taylor said. "We actually had to pull off some because the guys were being so physical. That is a good sign, I think. I would rather say ‘whoa than sic 'em.' Those guys were getting after it."
Taylor said the physical play showed up offensively, defensively and on special teams. "I think with Coach Chiz it is probably going to be an every Wednesday night deal," Taylor said of the physical workout.
"The good thing is the kids were talking about it, even in my individual meeting room they were talking about the drills when you crossover--wideouts vs. DBs or O line vs. D line. That was encouraging in stretch line. They were chirping across the field at each other getting ready for those drills. I think that is always a positive."
Also on Wednesday head coach Gene Chizik said that a pair of offensive linemen who have been sidelined season preseason, redshirt freshman guard Ed Christian and sophomore offensive tackle Aubrey Phillips, will not play for the Tigers. Both are expected to go on medical hardship redshirts which means they will keep their scholarships, but will no longer have eligibility to play football. Also, those scholarships do not count on the 85 limit.
Phillips, who is from Olive Branch, Miss., High, previously had a non-football medical problem that contributed to him dropping out of Auburn in the fall of 2009. He returned in January of this year as a walk-on and was put on scholarship in August. However, he had more medical problems prompting the medical hardship.
Christian, an outstanding high school lineman from Lowndes High in Valdosta, Ga., was sidelined last year by an injury while redshirting. A combination of back and knee problems ended his college football playing days before they started.
Another Tiger out for the season is redshirt freshman defensive end, Justin Delaine, who suffered a knee injury on a kickoff return vs. Mississippi State. With Delaine out of action, another redshirt freshman, LaDarius Owens, is expected to see expanded playing time. "He is not going to be back this year," Chizik said.
Delaine's position coach, Mike Pelton, said that the redshirt freshman is taking it hard that he can't play any more this season. Pelton said if Delaine comes back with the same attitude and intensity he was showing when he was injured that the defensive end will be a serious contributor in the future.
With Delaine out that means more playing opportunities for redshirt LaDarius Owens. Pelton said he has seen signs in practice and last week's game that Owens is ready for more action than the six snaps he had vs. Mississippi State.
Justin Delaine saw his first action this season after redshirting last year.
Ryan White, who is playing cornerback, covering kicks on special teams and holding for field goals and extra points, had seen limited playing time since arriving at Auburn until last week's game vs. Mississippi State. With Auburn spending most of the game in a nickel package, he came off the bench and handled a cornerback spot while T'Sharvan Bell moved to the nickel spot.
"Football is what I love to do so I am very happy right now," White said. "I had a talk with Coach (Phillip Lolley), he asked me if I was ready and I worked extra hard last week in practice and I am hoping we continue to run a lot of nickel this week."
Last year's game was his first start and the ninth overall game he has played for the Tigers since arriving in the summer of 2010 from Lincoln High in Tallahassee, where he spent most of his time at quarterback. He lined up briefly at that position in preseason drills for the Tigers last year, but with a shortage of cornerbacks he was moved to defense.
The original plan was to redshirt White, but injuries in the secondary changed that and he played in six games. White have five solo tackles, one assist and one pass deflection last season, which are the exact totals he has this year going into his team's Saturday road game vs. Clemson.
White said overall he thought he played "okay" in his first start, but noted that he needs to become more physical, an assessment the head coach agrees with heading into game three.
"There is a lot of room for improvement, but he played a lot of plays," Chizik said of White. "If you look at our secondary, there are a lot of young guys playing back there and they are playing a lot of players--Jonathan Mincy, Jermaine Whitehead, Robensen Therezie and that is not to mention that Chris Davis is still a young guy as well.
"Ryan did well with a lotta, lotta room for improvement," Chizik added. "I?think every game he will get better."
Another young defensive back, true freshman safety Erique Florence, is making progress, Chizik said. "He is coming along as well. He is another young guy, there are a lot of moving parts for him now. He is getting better.
"He was really, really making great strides in two-a-days until he got hurt," the coach noted. "I think that set him back a little bit. He is working at it every day."
Asked if safety is a tougher position for a true freshman to learn than cornerback, Chizik said, "It is tough, but I am not going to say it is tougher.
"Because of where it is positioned, in the middle of the defense, they're the ones you have to count on for communication to go around," Chizik said. "It is harder to start at a corner and get the communication all of the way back over so that is why that position usually requires guys to be able to be on top of it enough where they see the whole picture and they are able to communicate and check and do some things to do everybody else.
"He (Florence) is still learning," Chizik said. "Is he in that position to be able to make those checks right now? We are getting there, but he is not there yet. That is part of the difficulty in that position. Those guys are responsible for a lot of communication."
Erique "A" Florence
Tommy Thigpen, Auburn's safeties coach, said that he likes the maturity he is seeing from Florence. "He is making a ton of progress," the coach said. "He is probably one of the more vicious kids we have on the back end.
"He is young and making mistakes like every 18 year old and 19 kid does, but the game is really important to ‘A' so you would not know he is a freshman from the demeanor he has. He is very serious on and off the field."
Thigpen also said he is seeing progress from starting safeties Neiko Thorpe and Demetruce?McNeal. He noted that Thorpe had 18 tackles vs. Mississippi State after the game film was graded, but said that the senior can take his play to a higher level.
Clemson comes into Saturday's 11 a.m. CDT kickoff with victories over Troy and Wofford. One of White's high school teammates who plays for Troy has given the Auburn sophomore a scouting report on Clemson's offense. "I know they like to run it first," White said. "Talking to my friend from Troy he said they like to run hitches and screens, stuff like that, and then maybe deep pass you a few times."
Through two games everything has gone smoothly in his role as holder for field goals and extra points. White attributes that to the time he has been in with deeper snapper Josh Harris and kicker Cody Parkey. Parkey was 2-2 on field goals last week vs. Mississippi State.
In other news and notes:
*Phillip Lolley had high praise for sophomore Chris Davis noting the young cornerback's performance vs. Mississippi State was as good as he has seen as an Auburn defensive backs coach.
*The Tigers head into Saturday's game against an unranked Clemson team with a streak of 19 consecutive rating periods in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll. Auburn is ranked 19th in that poll and 21st in the AP Top 25.
*The Auburn offense is 6-6 this year scoring points on trips into the red zone (opponent's 20-yard line to the goal). Auburn has five touchdowns and one field goal in those situations.
*Auburn opponents have cashed in 9-10 trips into the end zone with six touchdowns and three field goals.
*Two weeks ino the season only two of Auburn's 12 opponents have losing records. Florida Atlantic, who will be at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Sept. 24th, is off this week after losing road games to nationally ranked teams Florida (41-3) and Michigan State (44-0). Georgia, with losses to Boise State and South Carolina, is the other Auburn opponent currently 0-2.
*Offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said he is seeing progress from left tackle A.J. Greene, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since being injured in last year's Clemson game.
With Greene at left tackle, Brandon Mosley moved back to right tackle where he started last year and is more comfortable. Look for Mosley to stay on the right side next to guard John Sullen, who works well next to Mosley, Grimes noted.