On Tuesday the Tigers had their first of three two-a-days sessions. The first practice, in full pads, and the second one in shorts, were used to tune up for the first preseason scrimmage scheduled for Wednesday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Assistant head coach Trooper Taylor said the players "flew around" at the practice despite it being moved indoors due to heavy rain and lightning in the area. "They are getting better at not letting things like that distract them," he said. "Because we are indoors or outdoors shouldn't matter."
Taylor noted he is seeing a plenty of enthusiasm this preseason because a lot of starting positions are open. Head coach Gene Chizik and his two new coordinators, Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, have told their players that no one of the team has a starting position locked up at this time.
"I think different from other teams, guys are more competitive about jobs because there are more jobs open," Taylor said. "Guys will come in and say, ‘we know he is going to be at that position, I have got no chance.' That is not the case. There are a lot of positions open on this football team."
Taylor, who coaches the wide receivers, said he hopes that multiple players step forward and join senior Emory Blake as guys who can be counted on to throw the football to in important situations.
With signee Jaquay Williams not qualified yet and not at practice, the two new candidates at wide receiver are a freshman signee and a player who played three years of minor league professional baseball before enrolling at Auburn last year and not playing football while concentrating on academics.
Commenting on his two newcomers at the position, Ricardo Louis and baseball player Melvin Ray, Taylor said, "Both have done well. Both are big guys. They are lost right now with knowing all of the intricacies of the offense, but size and speed, what you would like for a wideout to have, they seem to possess that. What we have got to get them better at is pad leverage and the speed of the game.
"Melvin is kind of what D-Lo (DeAngelo Benton) was--he hadn't played in a long time," Taylor said. "Ricardo, obviously, coming from high to college, that transition is a lot tougher just because the speed of the game. There is a reason why Ricardo was recruited. He has the ability. Now it is being able to put it all together and understand where he belongs in the offense is going to be huge. I like what I have seen so far."
Taylor pointed out that seniors Blake and Travante Stallworth have really helped the younger players with their assignments and added that senior Benton and sophomore Jaylon Denson have been also been helping the newcomers.
Taylor said the plan is to take eight wide receivers to Atlanta for the season opener vs. Clemson on Sept. 1st. He noted that he will play as many of those guys at receiver as he trusts to successfully carry out their assignments vs. the defending ACC champions.
The coach said that with the exception of the seniors, the wide receivers who make the travel squad have to contribute on at least two special teams. "Where they help us in special teams may say whether they get on the bus or not," Taylor said. "It won't just be based on what they do in the wide receiver group."
Taylor said in the first week of practice that sophomores Quan Bray and Trovon Reed plus redshirt freshman Sammie Coates have made plays that he has liked. The same is true of senior Anthony Morgan, a senior from Brantley who has changed positions multiple times playing running back, defensive back and wide receiver.
Anthony Morgan is a senior for the Tigers.
"Another guy who has moved in my room is Morgan," Taylor pointed out. "He can fly. That bubble screen is a whole lot different when you have speed on it. He is a guy I look to run some of those things with who can help us win."
Morgan's playing time last year was limited due to a shoulder injury. He noted that he has been trying to put that out of his mind and just concentrate on playing the game as a senior and not worrying about the possibility of getting hurt again.
Morgan said he likes Auburn's new offense and he believes the other receivers do, too.
"As a receiver corps we trying to get the calls right because there are lot of motions," he said. "As the practices go on we are making progress."
Commenting on Loeffler's offense vs. the one the Tigers ran the last three years, he said, "First of all the terminology is different. Also, our offense this year has a lot more to it. There is a lot more you have to know.
"I think our offense is a good one and it is going to put defenses in a bind on what to do," he added. "This year's offense is a lot different than last year's."
In other news:
*Wide receiver Reed, who noted that he is up to 195 pounds, said that the extra size and strength has helped him in practice. Taylor agrees and said, "That has made a big difference in his confidence, his blocking and his health--staying healthy. He was so skinny you could have slid him under the door without opening it."
*Taylor said he has been impressed with the amount of detail in teaching the new offense that coordinator Scot Loeffler is doing with the Tigers. "He is really an intelligent guy," Taylor said. "I love the way that he coaches the whole offense into understanding why we run a play."
The receivers coach said that Loeffler coaches the players in "minute detail" on how to handle every situation. "He and VanGorder both, I have been really impressed with the attention to detail."
Ryan Smith is competing for a starting spot at safety this preseason.
*Ryan Smith agrees with Taylor about the way VanGorder and new secondary coach Willie Martinez are teaching the defense. Smith said there has been a lot of learning involved in getting ready for the season.
"It is very different," the junior said. "There is a lot to it. It was tough during the spring to get your hands on it and learn what was going on. Now it is just about executing. For the most part you know what is going on. You just go out there and do your job."