Malzahn Likes Marshall And The Offense

The head football coach said he liked what he saw in a physical practice to end the "camp" portion of drills. This report features news, notes and quotes on the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn football Tigers wrapped up the "camp" portion of preseason with their 21st practice of the month on Tuesday evening, a session that featured full-speed 11 on 11 work with officials plus drills with the kicking game.

Gus Malzahn's Tigers, who have practiced indoors much of the preseason, spent the entire session outdoors at the two-hour workout. The head coach said he liked what he saw from the offense.

"When I look back on the whole camp, I felt we did improve," he said. "I felt like we were able to cover all of our situations. I felt like we were able to put our guys into situations to evaluate.

"Regarding this practice, I thought it was a good one," Malzahn said. "I told our offense at the end of the practice that it was the best rhythm that we have had since I have been back. That's a good thing. It looked like we knew what we were doing today and the timing was very good."

The players will take Wednesday off for the start of fall semester classes and will be back on the practice field Thursday evening. "We are pretty much all full force into Washington State," Malzahn said of preparations for the season opener at 6 p.m. CDT on August 31st at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

"We will start getting into our weekly routine. The good thing is we have some extra time to prepare, and I think that's very good with a starting quarterback who didn't go through spring."

Juco transfer Nick Marshall continued to throw the ball well in practice as he takes control of the offense as the No. 1 quarterback. "Since we have named him the starter he has been a lot more urgent," Malzahn said. "He has taken more of a lead and the offensive guys are listening to him. That is very important."

Malzahn noted that Marshall is a guy he had his eyes on last year when he was still coaching at Arkansas State. "We thought he was a definite playmaker," the head coach said. "When we got here we evaluated our situation and felt like we needed more depth at the quarterback position. We already had a relationship with him and the fact he is from Georgia--it was a pretty natural fit."

Defensive tackle Angelo Blackson said Tuesday's practice was a spirited and physical one. He agreed that the offense looked sharp. The junior noted the defense is heavily into its game plan preparations for a pass-happy opening opponent.

"Last year we did struggle rushing the passer, but this year we have a scheme for that," Blackson said. "We are going to get after them with a four-man rush. We are going to play run, but we are going to get after the quarterback, too."

Blackson said the front four is determined to play better than it did last season. "This is definitely going to be a turnaround,"?he said. "Guys have the attitude that they don't want to be beat anymore. It is a pride thing. We're all men out there--even the freshmen. Last year it was not good. This year is a chance to prove we are not the same."

The Tigers have three freshmen on the defensive front with tackle Montravius Adams joined by ends Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel.

Commenting on Adams, Blackson said, "He has a lot on his mind with plays and you can't play 100 miles per hour when you don't know the plays. He is going to take the time to get in his playbook and he will be able to get into that rotation with us."

With Dee Ford injured the Tigers are looking for help rushing the passer from the outside. Commenting on the freshmen ends, Blackson said, "Those guys have shown a good sense of rushing the passer, smoking off the ball. Those guys are young, but we need them to compete this year."

Angelo Blackson is pushing for a starting spot at tackle.

Both Auburn and Washington State won just three games last year. Malzahn said the Tigers are taking the Cougars seriously. "They beat Washington in the last game of the year," he said. "They have the majority of their guys coming back. We are expecting it will be a good team coming in here and we'll have to play well."

Although the Cougars run a spread offense like the Tigers, the two systems are "not very much" alike. "They are a throw-first and we are a run-first."

Malzahn added that the Cougars "do a little bit of everything" defensively. "You have got to be prepared for the different fronts," he said. "They bring a lot of pressures."

The Cougars return nine starters from a team that ranked 11th nationally last season in quarterback sacks.

In other news and notes:

*Malzahn said the Tigers are not ready yet to finalize the starters on the offensive line. "We're getting close," he noted. "We have got those seven guys that we are kind of mixing and matching. The good thing is we do have very quality depth."

Going into the preseason the first group featured Reese Dismukes at center, Alex Kozan and Chad Slade at guards with Greg Robinson and Patrick Miller at center. Devonte Danzey is trying to move up the depth chart at guard while Avery Young is trying to break into the starting lineup at either right tackle or left guard.

*"Star" rover Justin Garrett missed practice again with an ankle injury, but is expected to be cleared to practice soon.

*Redshirt freshman backup defensive tackle Tyler Nero missed practice and is "day to day," the head coach said.

*Commenting on the decision to move freshman tailback Johnathan Ford to cornerback, Malzahn said, "He is a phenomenal running back, but we need help in the secondary. You have got to have depth in the secondary. He played some in high school and he is off to a good start."

Johnathan Ford opened preseason camp at tailback. The freshman played both offense and defense at New Hope High School.

Blackson agreed with Malzahn and noted that Ford's quickness has allowed him to intercept three passes in practices against scout team quarterback Tucker Tuberville.

Having depth at running back allowed the Tigers to move Ford to defense. "He is a very good football player and we had already made the decision he was going to play special teams," Malzahn said. "It was kind of a natural fit. I'm sure he'll be in the mix before long."

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