Scrimmage Two: Advantage To the Offense

Gus Malzahn said the coaches will be ready to "narrow" their list on players to get ready for the opener after Auburn's second major scrimmage of the preseason.

Auburn, Ala.--The offense held the upper hand on Saturday in Auburn's second preseason football scrimmage that Gus Malzahn said will be helpful in sorting out who will be ready to play during his first season as head coach of the Tigers.

Malzahn avoided giving any hints about who is rising to the top of the depth chart in the four-player quarterback battle in the group that includes newcomers Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson plus returning players Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace.

Asking if he is seeing any separation in the quarterback group, the coach said, "I think so. I would like to think so. Our goal after this scrimmage was to narrow things down at all positions, but specifically the quarterback position. Hopefully, after we watch film, we'll have a chance to do that somewhat."

Malzahn noted that he and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who is also the position coach for the quarterbacks, will be discussing who will be the number one QB and when they will make their choice. "You can't keep repping four guys at quarterback and properly evaluate them as it gets closer," Malzahn said of the competition.

Johnson, the six-foot-five freshman who showed an accurate passing arm in scrimmage one, did it again on Saturday. He threw a pair of touchdown passes, including one to sophomore Ricardo Louis, who was one of the standout performers in the scrimmage.

Asked if the freshman quarterback is in contention to be the starter, Malzahn said, "Stepping on the field today all four of them were still in the hunt or we wouldn't have given them reps with the first and second group. All four were in the hunt."

Ricardo Louis

Louis, a true sophomore, is trying to win a starting spot and probably helped himself a good bit with his performance.

Cornerback Jonathan Mincy noted that he liked what he saw from Louis. "He made a lot of big plays and that is something I expect from Ricardo," the junior said. "He is one of the receivers who has a lot of speed and brings a lot to the table.

"He really stood out," Mincy added. "I congratulated him. I'm going to make sure he takes pride in doing that any time he steps on the field."

Asked how the quarterbacks performed in scrimmage two compared to scrimmage one on Wednesday, Malzahn said, "I think it was similar as a group. When you have got four guys playing, there's going to be good and there is going to be bad. It was similar."

One thing that was different was there was just one interception. Sophomore Jonathan Wallace's pass into the flat was picked off by junior safety Jermaine Whitehead. Wallace was rushed on the play by a bad snap in the shotgun formation. The only other turnover was on a fumble near the goal line by freshman running back Peyton Barber.

Another difference from scrimmage one to two with the quarterbacks was that they were wearing orange jerseys, which meant they were off limits to contact. The one exception was walk-on Tucker Tuberville, the only quarterback who didn't get any action in the Wednesday scrimmage when the quarterbacks were "live" for contact.

Asked about freshman QB Johnson, Malzahn didn't talk about how he played on Saturday, but did say, "He ran a similar offense in high school as far as communication from the sideline. That is half the battle for a new guy that didn't go through spring."

Linebacker Kris Frost comes up to make a tackle on tight end Brandon Fulse, who caught at TD pass on Saturday from Nick Marshall.

Commenting on the big picture as the Tigers prepare for the August 31st season opener vs. Washington State, Malzahn said, "I think we're improving. We talked about that and I said we've been in evaluation mode. We've been giving them all a chance.

"It's time that we start narrowing it down, getting our guys that we feel like will have a chance to help us in that first game, start giving them reps, be very specific and move forward."

The Tigers began practice on August 2nd and have had workouts every day except for Friday. The team will have a second workout in the evening following Saturday's scrimmage.

"We're at that point now, I've told out coaches and I told our players, that we're going to start narrowing some things down," said Malzahn, who sat out some of his front-line players in Saturday's scrimmage to give others a more thorough evaluation during the 85-play session. Other front line players like tailback Tre Mason and offensive tackle Greg Robinson played briefly and then let others get the reps.

"What that means, I can't sit here and tell you how specific right now, but it will be narrowed down," Malzahn said on who is going to be where on the depth charts when the That's where we're at."

Malzahn noted that the Tigers had their first full speed, contact special teams periods. Senior Cody Parkey and freshman Daniel Carlson each made their single field goal attempts. "We learned a lot trying to evaluate those guys and find returners," Malzahn said of the special teams units.

With temperatures in the mid-90s in Auburn on Saturday along with plenty of humidity, Malzahn said he liked being able to test his players in the heat. "It's good for us," he said. "It was hot. That is a good thing to see how guys respond to the heat. There was a lot of ups and downs for the scrimmage, which is always good to evaluate your guys--how they respond to good things and how they respond to adversity."

Mincy and some of the other players didn't see a lot of action in the scrimmage. The junior cornerback participated in the special teams part of the session, but did not play with the defense.

Asked his opinion on scrimmage two, Mincy said, "I felt that it was a great practice, a great evaluation for the coaches to see who can come out and play and who can contribute as well. That's good to see for your teammates."

Commenting on which side of the ball held the upper hand, the cornerback said, "I felt like the offense came out and executed more plays. The defense gave up a lot of explosive plays. That's something we're going to get corrected in the film room."

Jonathan Mincy

Adding to his comment about the offense, Mincy said, "They had more of a sense of urgency on the field. They enjoyed being out there. You could tell by the way they were executing their plays."

The cornerback pointed out that it looked to him like the offense had fewer busted plays than the defense. "They made a lot of big throws," Mincy said. "We had a lot of busted coverages as far as running backs breaking loose in the middle of the field. That's something the defense has to get corrected."

In other news and notes:

*Commenting on juco quarterback Nick Marshall, who looks to be making a strong run to challenge for a starting job, Malzahn said, "I didn't know really what to expect. He didn't get to go through spring. All I knew was he was a very good athlete in junior college and so it's just a matter of each day I think he gets more and more comfortable. Like I said before, we ask a lot of them from the sideline to executing the play. I think each day he would tell you he's getting more and more comfortable."

Tailback Johnathan Ford (23) is off to a good start in preseason. He runs in Saturday's scrimmage as linebacker Anthony Swain looks to stop the freshman.

*The standout of spring training, "star" rover Justin Garrett, was hurt during the scrimmage and was wearing a boot after the session.

*Unlike scrimmage one the Tigers held out some of the proven players from the scrimmage portion of practice like Mincy and junior center Reese Dismukes while other front-line players saw limited action. "If we had the proper information and we were trying to worry about the guy behind them, there were certain players that we did hold out," Malzahn said.

*Commenting on his team's receivers, Malzahn said, "We're starting to figure out what the receivers' strong points are and what they're good at and what they need to improve on. Going in to the first game, you always try to do things that people are good at and what they're comfortable doing and not ask them to do stuff they're not comfortable doing. I think there's some of that.

"We work very hard without the ball, playing without the ball, blocking, being physical, releases, everything that goes with that. Coach (Dameyune) Craig has done a very good job with those guys."

*The Tigers will practice again on Sunday before participating in Fan Day, which runs from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the Auburn Arena.

More Notes And Discussion:

Scrimmage Notes, Part 10

Scrimmage Notes, Part 9

Scrimmage Notes, Part 8

Scrimmage Notes, Part 7

Scrimmage Notes, Part 6

Scrimmage Notes, Part 5

Scrimmage Notes, Part 4

Scrimmage Notes, Part 3

Scrimmage Notes, Part 2

Scrimmage Notes, Part 1

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