Tigers "have to do better," Malzahn says

The Auburn Tigers returned to the football practice field on Wednesday and the head coach was not happy about what he saw. Comments from Gus Malzahn and players plus news and notes from the session are featured.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn has generally been pleased with his team's spring workouts, but after Wednesday's two-hour session in full pads the Auburn head football coach said what he saw left plenty to be desired.

"This is probably the first time that I wasn't pleased overall with our attitude, effort and our approach to practice," he said. "I told the guys afterwards we have got to do better.

"We are at the mid-point of spring," Malzahn said. "That is the thing you have got to worry about from a coaching standpoint and we are going to get that corrected. I think our players understand that."

The coach said he challenged his players to step up at their next practice on Friday. "It was really good today because we will find out how we respond next practice and have some leadership step up," said Malzahn, who noted that he will be looking to the seniors to set the tone.

Redshirt freshman offensive guard Jordan Diamond is shown at Wednesday's practice.

Malzahn said he saw progress from the Tigers after grading video of their first major scrimmage of the spring. "The effort I thought, overall, was very good," he said. "I felt very good after watching the scrimmage. We still have deficiencies and we have a long way to go, but we improved up to that point. That is why today as a coach you are wanting to keep improving and we didn't do it today. That is definitely something that is a red flag right now."

Malzahn made it a point to say on Wednesday that no starting positions are set. One of the players who is getting work with the ones at safety is former walk-on Trent Fisher, who noted that he is enjoying the opportunity to show the coaches what he can do while running with the first defense.

Trent Fisher

"It feels good any time hard work starts to pay off and you can see it coming through on the field," said Fisher, the son of NFL?head coach Jeff Fisher.

The 6-1, 205-pound junior from Nashville is learning to play at both of the safety spots, something he said is essential in Ellis Johnson's defense to enable the defenders to get lined up quickly, something needed when facing fast-paced offenses like the one the Tigers run.

Fisher noted that communicating more rapidly and more effectively is an emphasis, something the 2012 defense struggled to do. Part of Wednesday's practice featured loud music to simulate the type of crowd noise players will be dealing with in SEC stadiums this fall and making sure the players on both sides of the line of scrimmage can communicate properly no matter what the situation is.

The safety noted that going against Auburn's offense in practice is helping the defense. "Man, our offense is fast," he said. "With what we are doing on defense we are being able to handle it. With the way we are getting calls in, and just the way our defense is functioning, the defense will be able to handle that kind of offense so it is going good--signals and everything, guys getting lined up."

Asked about how the Tigers are doing on defense this spring, "I?feel like we are making progress--definitely," he said. "I feel like we have most of our stuff installed and we are kind of just polishing it up. We have to fine-tune our work."

Fisher agreed with his head coach that Wednesday's practice was not what it needed to be. "We have to pick the tempo up," the safety said. "We have to get after it on Friday. We had a pretty good workout (strength and conditioning) yesterday, but that is no excuse for kind of a slow day. We just have to have our leaders step up get things going on Friday."

Sophomore Anthony Swain is competing for playing time at linebacker.

In other news and notes;

*Malzahn was asked if any individuals stood out in the scrimmage after grading the video and he said, "The guys who have the most experienced who have played are playing faster and not making as many mistakes, but there is no single individual at this point that I would stay is really standing out."

*Robenson Therezie, who has worked at cornerback, tailback and kick returner in the past year, is getting a look as the "star" rover, the position where Justin Garrett is having a strong spring performance. "We are just trying to find ways to get our athletes on the field," Malzahn said. "He is an athlete."

*Malzahn said the quarterbacks "did a very solid job" in the scrimmage when the players around them were executing properly. "The big thing for us is protecting the football and doing the little things right," said Malzahn, who said the coaches will get a better read on the QBs in the second half of spring drills because the other players on offense will be more comfortable in the offensive system being installed by the new staff.

Jonathon Mincy works on an interception return drill at Wednesday's practice.

*Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson, "star" Javiie Mitchell and tailback Tre Mason were held out of drills on Wednesday. Malzahn said none of the players have serious injuries and will be back later this spring.

*Walk-on wide receiver Melvin Ray said that all of the players at the wideout spots have a "great opportunity" this season with the Tigers being short on numbers at those positions.

"We are all working because we know are all going to need each other," he said. "We know we are going to need each other to show up every day and play hard, and play for each other because we are all pretty much going to need to be on the field."

Melvin Ray's combination of size and speed should give him a chance for expanded playing time this year.

Ray, a four-star prospect as a high school senior, signed a football scholarship to play for Alabama when he was at North Florida Christian in Tallahassee. However, he opted to try pro baseball and played in the minor leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers. After struggling to hit, he decided to walk on at Auburn last year and saw limited action. The 6-3, 218-pound wideout will be a sophomore this fall at Auburn and notes that academics are a priority.

"Right now I want to graduate," he said. "Of course, when I came out of high school, I'm thinking about ball, ball, ball." While saying he would like to play pro football, he noted, "Hopefully, I get an opportunity to play on Sundays. but thinking realistically I have to worry about making sure I put myself in a position to get a job first."

*A prospect who could be one of the top class of 2015 in-state prospects, Nick Gibson from Pinson Valley High School, attended Wednesday's practice. He is from the same school as class of 2013 AU wide receiver signee Earnest Robinson.

*Also checking out practice were class of 2014 offensive line prospect Desmond Barr from Hardaway High in Columbus, Ga., and class of 2015 athlete Justin Crawford, who is also from Hardaway.

More Notes And Discussion:

Notes, Part One

Notes, Part Two

Notes, Part Three

Noes, Part Four

Notes, Part Five

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