Auburn Narrowing Its Focus For 2nd Scrimmage

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is hoping to narrow the numbers of players the Tigers are working with on both sides of the ball following the second scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--The first scrimmage of the preseason is always an important one for any football team, but in the case of the Auburn Tigers it was a very important starting point in Gus Malzahn's first season as head coach.

Rolling through 107 plays on Thursday with the reps split among veterans and newcomers, Malzahn said it was a great teaching tool as the Tigers prepare for the second scrimmage on Saturday morning.

"There were a lot of reps and a lot of plays," he said. "Last night we watched it with them and we even carried that over until today. We felt like it was important that each one of the guys understands the expectations for each position the coach has. We made sure the expectations were clear, not just technique-wise but effort-wise and everything that goes along with that."

While the focus was obviously on the play of the quarterbacks, Malzahn was also looking for playmakers to step up on that side of the ball to take the pressure off. Having returning 1,000-yard rusher Tre Mason back along with Corey Grant with junior college transfer Cameron Artis-Payne coming off in impressive spring, Malzahn said that group along with freshmen Johnathan Ford and Peyton Barber had a solid first look in live action.

"I think our ball security was pretty good," Malzahn noted. "That was the thing that stood out. We have got to make sure we protect as a group. That's what Coach (Tim) Horton was really focusing on today.

"We feel like we have some options," the head coach said. "A lot of guys can do different things. If you look back at our history, we're at our best when we have got running backs that are a little bit different, who can specialize."

At wide receiver older players such as Trovon Reed and Quan Bray both had a good day on Thursday as did freshman Tony Stevens. A player who caught the eye of his teammates throughout the summer, the lanky Stevens is someone Malzahn said they are testing now to see if he will be ready to play this season.

"We really feel like he's talent," Stevens said. "We are just trying to see how he reacts. You have got to understand: fall camp for a lot of the freshmen coming in, there is a lot going on. It's 24/7 football. It's meetings, it's practice, it's sleep, it's eat, get up, more football. We're just really trying to figure out these guys--who can handle it mentally and who can't."'

Defensively, Malzahn said there was good and bad from the first scrimmage as the Tigers made plays in the secondary, but didn't show the consistency he's looking for from his team. Up front newcomers Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel all got plenty of work, something the coaching staff needed to see to gauge how much they can help moving forward.

"We're learning a lot," Malzahn said. "Some of the new guys--it's very good to see how they react and see how much they have improved. We have pretty good information on our older guys. We're really just trying to figure out, at each position, going forward with the season.

"I think they are improving," he added of the freshmen. "They're getting a lot of reps. I know Coach (Rodney) Garner is getting a good look at them and an evaluation. Saturday will be big."

With the camp portion of preseason practice nearing an end Malzahn said the coaching staff is hoping to begin to get a feel for the players who can help them this season and the guys who will probably be headed for a redshirt or the scout team. That includes not only the quarterbacks, but everywhere on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Malzahn said they want to get another complete look at the team this weekend before closing in a little closer to finding the starters heading into the Aug. 31 season opener against Washington State.

"Our plan Saturday is to do something similar, be a little more specific like we talked about with quarterbacks in certain situations," Malzahn said. "But, hopefully after Saturday we'll have a chance to narrow it down. Now, narrow it down, I don't know what that means yet other than the fact that were rotating too many guys right now and we'll see what happens."

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