Gus Malzahn said he liked what saw from the Tigers, who will hold their 15th and final spring practice on Wednesday. The head coach noted that he challenged his players to practice with energy and show improvement, something he said can be difficult for a team to do after playing their spring game.
"For the most part, I felt like our guys wanted to get better, and I felt like we did get better," Malzahn said, noting the Tigers spent a portion of the practice with full contact going 11 on 11.
"Tomorrow we will have a last practice in shorts," he said. "It will be a lot of teaching, a lot of technique. There was some teaching today, too, but this was really the last time we went offense against defense and got after it. Overall, I feel good about where we're at."
After grading video of the A-Day Game, Malzahn said, "Cameron Artis-Payne, obviously he had some good, hard-nosed runs. He fell forward a lot." The juco transfer tailback was named MVP of the spring game.
"I thought the tackling overall, in space, was pretty good," the coach pointed out. "I feel like we improved, definitely from the first scrimmage on that.
"Justin Garrett was flying around like he has all spring," he said of the "star" rover, who was the A-Day MVP on defense. "He obviously picked up the fumble, but he made a couple of other plays that were very impressive."
Gus Malzahn has been on the job as Auburn's head coach since December.
Malzahn said that the coaches liked the work of senior defensive end Dee Ford, who had one of the two sacks on A-Day. "If it had been a live situation the quarterback would have gotten hit quite a few times and taken some pretty good licks," he stated.
Commenting further on the tackling, the head coach said, "From the first couple of practices I would say we have improved quite a bit. Coach Johnson (Ellis Johnson, defensive coordinator) and the defensive staff have worked hard every day. They have had tackling drills and different things.
"We have had some long, numerous plays scrimmages and that is the way you get better at anything you do--to actually do it. It has been good to see who can tackle, who needs to improve and who has gotten better."
On Saturday the Tigers ran 111 plays in their spring game, which drew a crowd of 83,401, the largest ever for an Auburn A-Day by more than 20,000 fans.
"It (A-Day) was really good for us--it gave us some information where we are at," Malzahn said. "There were a lot of plays to grade as far as the scrimmage goes."
View of Toomer's Corner on Tuesday following the removal of the poisoned oak trees.
Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee both pointed out they are seeing signs of progress from the offensive line. "They are starting to gell a little bit," Malzahn said, something that he has noticed since the sixth and seventh practices of the spring.
"Offensive line is a position where it takes all five guys working together," he added. "I think they improved. We do have some young talent. We feel like the future is very bright in the offensive line.
"The good thing is we have some depth," he said. "That is probably the biggest positive. We have a lot of options."
News and Notes:
*Offensive tackle Avery Young, who was limited in what he could do in spring drills, should be a factor in the battle for a starting spot when preseason drills start in August. Greg Robinson and Patrick Miller are likely to end spring drills as the top tackles on the depth chart. Young opened the 2012 season as a starter despite being a true freshman, but played in just three games before having shoulder surgery.
*Demetruce McNeal, a returning starter at safety, did not practice again on Tuesday. Malzahn said the senior is still a member of the team and his status is "day-to-day" and "still up in the air."
"He has got has got to take care of some business," said the head coach, who noted it is an off the field issue. Defensive coordinator Johnson said that McNeal is making progress with his issue and has high hopes that McNeal will be ready for action this fall, especially with depth at the safety position being a concern this season.
*Cornerback Josh Holsey, who has won praise for his performance this spring, is cross-training as a safety to be ready to play there if needed this fall. The Tigers are also expecting the safety spots to be bolstered when the 2013 signees arrive this summer.
*Malzahn said he is seeing signs of improvement from the defensive tackles. Commenting on the group's play in the spring game, he said, "There was a lot of penetration. Coach (Rodney) Garner has got those guys really focused on playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage and they did a good job. They created some havoc in the backfield at times."
Brandon Fulse is shown making a TD catch on Saturday. The play covered 17 yards.
*Tight end Brandon Fulse is making progress this spring, according to Malzahn, who said that the junior is stepping into the role envisioned for him when the Tigers recruited him. Fulse caught a touchdown pass in the A-Day Game.
More Notes And Discussion: