Tigers Looking Forward to A-Day Game

News, notes and quotes from Auburn's Wednesday football practice are featured in this report.

Auburn, Ala.--Head coach Gus Malzahn said he liked what he saw as his Tigers returned to the football practice field on Wednesday following a three-day layoff from practice after a major scrimmage on Saturday.

"There is no doubt we have improved," he said. "Are we there yet? No, we're not there yet, but our guys are still starting to buy in, they are starting to understand. We are starting to play more as a team."

The Tigers worked out for more than two hours in full pads on Wednesday. They will hit the field again on Friday before taking part in the annual A-Day spring game that will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Tailback Cameron Artis-Payne runs the football in Wednesday's practice.

"We are going to try to make this thing as close to a game as possible for our fans and also for our coaches," Malzahn said. "It will be great for us to evaluate the guys in front of a crowd and see how they react."

A large crowd is expected to attend the game with a new coaching staff to check out plus the 5 p.m. ceremony to say goodbye to the poisoned Toomer's Corner oak trees that will soon be removed. Malzahn is scheduled to speak at the Toomer's Corner event and a large number of the players are expected to attend.

"It is one of the best traditions in college football," Malzahn said of Auburn's victory celebrations at Toomer's Corner. "For the Auburn Family, it is really unbelievable. I am looking forward to being a part of it after the A-Day Game. I know that will be very special."

Commenting on what the Tigers are focusing on as they went through their 11th of 15 spring practice dates, Malzahn said, "The mentality, the physical and mental toughness, our base offense and defense. We are not doing a whole lot fancy.

"We are trying to get good at a few things so we can evaluate our players," he said. "There hasn't been a whole lot of scheming from an offensive and defensive standpoint, but that has been by design."

The coach noted the Tigers have improved on their goal of practicing at a high tempo. "Are we there yet? We are not there yet, but our guys are starting to buy in, they are starting to understand. We are starting to play more as a team and that is what we are looking for."

Asked how the Tigers performed as a team in the second major scrimmage compared to the first one, Malzahn said, "We improved. It was good. We are getting better at our techniques offensively and defensively. We got a lot of opportunities to see different people, but more importantly as a head coach I am looking to see how we respond to adversity, how we respond to success.

"Are we worried about the guy beside us, not worried about ourselves? There are some issues that come out in game-type, scrimmage situations that normally don't come out in practices so it is really good for myself and our coaches to see that. We are learning a whole lot, which is great."

Commenting on Wednesday's session, Malzahn said, "We had a good physical practice again today. It's really right in the middle of the grind. It has been a very physical spring. I am sure a lot of our guys, their bodies are probably talking to them...this is the time you push through. Our coaches are challenging our guys. Our guys responded better today than they did last Wednesday."

Wide receiver Jaylon Denson agreed with the coach about the practice. "We made some good strides today," he said. "We are still working on breaking through that wall, but we did pretty good."

Denson added that the end of practice featured productive 11 on 11 work against the defense following up on Saturday's scrimmage.

Asked if the offense improved from its first to second scrimmage, the wide receiver said, "Yes, major improvements. We put up points, got in the end zone and the first practice we didn't do that a lot."

Denson said the Tigers are excited about A-Day. "Everybody is looking forward to what we are going to do--new offense, new coaches, young players being able to step up and show what they can do. I think there are going to be a lot of people out there and we are not going to disappoint."

In other news and notes:

*Racean Thomas from Oxford High School, Scout's No. 3 running back for the class of 2014, attended Auburn's practice.

*Tailback Tre Mason, who has been limited with an ankle sprain, got live reps at Wednesday's workout and could see playing time in the A-Day Game.

*Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson, who has been less than full speed this spring, is expected to be able to play in Saturday's game.

*Malzahn said there is still no separation at the quarterback position with Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace competing. "We are getting to the point where we are actually getting guys in the right positions so we can properly evaluate them," he said, noting the two are getting equal reps.

Malzahn is shown with Samford head coach Pat Sullivan at Wednesday's practice.

*Former Tiger All-American quarterback Pat Sullivan attended Wednesday's practice. "That is a pretty big deal," Malzahn said of having one of Auburn's most respected former players at the field. "I am a big fan of his. Any time you can get a guy to come back and watch practice and be around, it's not only big for me, it was big for our coaches and players. He's a true class individual."

Sullivan, a star for the Tigers from 1969-71, rewrote the Auburn passing records on the way to earning All-American honors and the 1971 Heisman Trophy.

*The head coach said he is seeing improvement from juco transfers Cameron Artis-Payne at tailback, Devonte Danzey on the offensive line and Ben Bradley on the defensive line. "He is a physical, tough guy--that is what stood out to me," Malzahn said of Artis-Payne, who set school records playing juco ball in California the past two season. "He is starting to learn the offense. I really like his attitude. He is a downhill guy."

*Danzey said after working at center and right guard this spring, he is focused in on left guard. The newcomer said the coaches have made it clear all five starting spots on the offensive front are up for grabs. "Everybody is working hard to get a starting spot and the best five are going to play," the junior said.

He said the biggest challenge for him has been adjusting to the tempo of practice. "There is no down time," he said.

More Notes And Discussion:

Notes, Part One

Notes, Part Two

Notes, Part Three

Notes, Part Four

Notes, Part Five

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories