Up-Tempo Start As Tigers Open Spring Drills

The Auburn football team hit the practice field for the first time this spring on Tuesday.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers are off and running with spring practice 2014 and if Tuesday's workout is a good indication Gus Malzahn wasn't joking when the head coach said he had a need for more speed with this year's football team.

The tempo of practice was noticeably quicker than opening day 2013. Malzahn said this week that playing fast, both offensively and defensively, is one of the major goals for the defending SEC champions.

Asked how much faster the offense can be, Malzahn said, "We think we can be quite a bit faster. Last year we had a lot of new people out there and a lot of moving parts. As you get more comfortable, though, the faster you can get.

"The thing about pace, too, is now there are so many pace offenses we have got to get better on the defensive side, too, with our communication, our alignment and everything that goes with that," the coach added.

On Tuesday the Tigers practiced for two hours in helmets and shorts using both their indoor and outdoor fields. Offensively, the Tigers return all of their starters with the exception of left tackle Greg Robinson, tailback Tre Mason and fullback Jay Prosch. Robinson, who would have been a junior and Mason who would have been a senior, are early entries in the NFL?Draft while Prosch was a senior in 2013.

Junior Patrick Miller plus sophomores Shon Coleman and Robert Leff are expected to battle to fill Robinson's spot. Miller started most of the 2012 season at right tackle and the first part of 2013 at right tackle before losing that role to Avery Young. At Tuesday's practice Coleman and Miller split reps with the ones at left tackle.

Seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant will compete with redshirt freshman Peyton Barber to be Auburn's No. 1 running back in what should be one of the more interesting competitions of spring training.

Malzahn said that he expects senior H-backs/tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Brandon Fulse to be the main men in the fullback role this year. A wildcard in the mix is sophomore Ricky Parks, who was kicked off the team last summer. He is being given another chance this year as a walk-on. Also returning as a sophomore is walk-on Gage Batten, who saw some prime-time action in 2013 as Prosch's backup.

Sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson is shown at Tuesday's practice.

Jermaine Whitehead, a returning starter at safety, said he noticed a difference between the first day of practice in 2013 with Malzahn's new coaching staff and what happened on Tuesday.

"As far as our defense, we are ahead," he said. "We expect the calls and know what to look for. Our transition on the field with the communications is a lot better than last year. I think it is a whole different experience."

Whitehead said the Tigers had a "great day" of practice on Tuesday and noted the players were happy to be back on the practice field following winter workouts.

Whitehead is helping tutor Johnathan "Rudy" Ford, who is making to safety this spring after splitting time between cornerback and running back as a true freshman.

"He is a very talkative guy and he knows what is going on," Whitehead said. "He is a learner. He is always in my back pocket wanting to learning some info. He always wants to find out what I know, what I saw, what I thought of his steps and stuff like that. He is going to be a great player."

Another new safety, juco transfer Derrick Moncrief, also got Whitehead's attention. "I am very excited to work with him," Whitehead said. "He is high-energy. He flew around the ball a lot. I can't wait to see him hit though. He is a big dude. He is going to help us a lot."

Whitehead and Ford worked at the free safety spot on Tuesday along with Brandon King. Khari Harding, Moncrief and Mack Van Gorder practiced at the boundary safety spot.

Whitehead said the Tigers are a hungry football team after just missing taking home the national championship trophy in January and noted his team will be "hunted" as the defending SEC champs.

Another player making a position move into the secondary, Trovon Reed, won praise from returning starter Jonathon Mincy after Tuesday's practice. "He has looked good," Mincy said. "He looked like he has been playing corner...He is making a good transition. He is eager to learn. He is just a very competitive person."

Mincy worked with the ones at boundary cornerback and was backed up by T.J. Davis. At the field corner spot on the coached worked Jonathan Jones, Reed and Kamryn Melton.

The Tigers will return to practice Thursday morning and will wrap up week one with a session on Saturday morning.

News and Notes: Whitehead said that he was impressed with new wide receivers D'haquille Williams and Stanton Truitt. "D'haquille is probably going to be a great player," Williams said. "He reminds me a lot of Sammie (Coates). He can get vertical fast, but he also likes to put his foot in the ground and make plays across the field. Truitt is going to be a good guy--quick with his feet, great hands and a lot of confidence out both of those guys. They are going to be able to help us real fast."...Mincy said that Williams is a "competitor" and that was obvious in the first day of practice...Mincy got a chance to work on punt returns on Tuesday and is hoping to take that role held last season by 2013 senior cornerback Chris Davis. Reed is also in the group working as a punt returner along with Tony Stevens, Ricardo Louis and Williams...Mincy said the quarterbacks Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson. looked like "they didn't miss a beat" since last season.

Football Practice Notes, Part 1

Football Practice Notes, Part 2

Football Practice Notes, Part 3

Football?Practice Notes, Part 4

Football Practice Notes, Part 5

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