Coaches Encouraged After First Scrimmage

Comments from Auburn players and coaches are featured following the team's first scrimmage of spring training.

Auburn, Ala.--Rainy and foggy weather prompted Coach Gene Chizik to move the first scrimmage of spring football drills from Jordan-Hare Stadium to Auburn's indoor practice facility and for the most part the head coach was pleased with what he saw on Saturday.

"I thought today was a productive scrimmage day," said Chizik, who put the Tigers through situational drills prior to the controlled scrimmage. The Tigers also did special teams work. "It was a good all-around day."

Chizik said he moved the practice indoors because he wanted to see how the Tigers would perform with dry footballs and a dry playing surface for their first scrimmage of the spring.

Chizik talks to his football team on Saturday.

The Auburn coach said he likes the competition that is going on for playing time on both offense and defense. "The scrimmage, I thought, was productive on both sides of the ball," he said. "There are going to be some great teaching moments. There is going to be a lot of great tape to teach from."

Commenting on the offense, Chizik said, "I thought there were a lot of positives. I felt like we tried to run the football in a physical manner. We had a few explosive plays that were good see."

With Clint Moseley not throwing in the scrimmage due to a sore shoulder, sophomore Kiehl Frazier got plenty of work. He hit long passes to Emory Blake, Sammie Coates and Travante Stallworth. Walk-on running back Corey Grant from Opelika High, a transfer from Alabama, had the longest run of the day and several other good runs.

"On defense I saw some explosive plays as well," the coach added. "Turnovers and sacks, I saw a couple of those. I saw a few three-and-outs." Linebacker Kris Frost forced a fumble and cornerback Robenson Therezie intercepted a tipped pass.

Redshirt freshman outside linebacker Kris Frost caused a fumble for one of the highlights for the defense and also earned some praise for his improvement this week from defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

Chizik said the Tigers have more depth to work with this spring than in his previous seasons at Auburn and that means there are more serious battles for playing time going on at a variety of positions. "I think that is happening right now," he stated.

Chizik said the returning starters are having to prove again they deserve to be No. 1 on the depth chart. "We don't inherit positions here,"?he said.

VanGorder said his guys need to improve their consistency, but noted that looking at the scrimmage as a whole they "took a step forward" on Saturday.

"The mechanics of our defense, and the discipline of our defense, I thought we were much better today," he said. "It looked like the guys were a little bit more comfortable running to the football and understanding their assignments and their eyes--using their eyes and trusting their eyes. It was a good day."

What VanGorder didn't like on Saturday was that the defense gave up what he called "explosive plays" and allowed the offense to convert several third down and long situations. Getting opponents off the field on third downs was a huge problem for the 2011 defense. "Those two things stand out to me," he said. "You can't give up explosive plays on defense. You can't do it and be a good defense."

On the plus side, VanGorder said he saw signs the defense got better on the third down stops in the later part of the scrimmage.

The Tigers gang tackle tailback Tre Mason on Saturday.

Looking at the offensive side of the ball, coordinator Scott Loeffler said, "After five days of installation there were some really good things and some things that obviously we have to clean up. We were overall happy with the effort and how the team played."

Loeffler said going into scrimmage a major goal was to be physical. He noted that he liked what he saw. "Overall, the effort was outstanding," he said, adding that until he studies video of the scrimmage he won't know for sure exactly how consistently physical the Tigers were throughout the session.

Zeke Pike makes a pass in his first collegiate scrimmage.

The coach also said he wanted to see good communication and execution in the first scrimmage. "That is one area we are extremely pleased with. We got in and out of the huddle and lined up correctly. That was really a big, big plus considering it is new for these guys."

In other news:

*Coates, who missed last season as a freshman due to injury, was excited about being able to participate in the scrimmage. "I feel good about where I am at and how I am doing," he said. "I made some plays I was proud of and I missed some I should have made so I have got to do better on that, too."

*Chizik said that he believes Frazier is "improving every day" in practice and gaining in confidence. The coach said that Frazier is getting better at playing under center. Chizik noted that the QB is throwing the ball well at times, but needs to improve his timing and consistently. "His decision making right now is getting better," he added. "Today was another step in the right direction."

*Moseley said he is continuing to do rehab on his shoulder. He said the team's trainers and doctors told him he is like a baseball pitcher who has a sore arm from throwing too many pitches. The junior said he can throw short touch passes, but isn't throwing the ball deep right now. Moseley noted that he will continue his rehab and hopes he will be back to normal when the Tigers resume practice on Monday.

Freshman offensive tackle Patrick Miller (51) blocks against defensive end Corey Lemonier. With Greg Robinson missing the scrimmage on Saturday, Miller worked with the first and second offense.

*Asked about how the young defensive linemen are doing, Chizik said, "There have been some physical practices and they are beat up. They are pushing through it and I am proud of them for that...I think they are taking some steps in the right direction. We have got some ground to cover with a couple guys being out who are potential starters (Nosa Eguae and Gabe Wright), but that gives other guys an opportunity to step up to the plate and show they can play as well."

Chizik noted that looking at the front four as a whole, the group has a chance to be a "good segment" of the team for the Tigers this fall. "It has to be because that is where our defense starts," he said.

Cornerback Chris Davis makes a tackle on David West, a walk-on receiver from Hoover.

*VanGorder said that a pair of redshirt freshmen caught his eye in the scrimmage–defensive end Keymiya Harrell and outside linebacker Frost. "The last couple of days he has really been much better," VanGorder said of Frost.

The defensive coordinator also said that backup middle linebacker Jawara White made some good plays. "Depth is so important in the SEC," he said. "We have got to build depth. I was really encouraged by that overall."


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