Playing Physical A Theme For Week 4 Of Spring

Comments from Gus Malzahn and players are featured as the Tigers returned to the practice field on Tuesday.

Auburn, Ala.--Correcting mistakes from Saturday's scrimmage and improving the team's intensity were themes at practice on Tuesday as the Auburn Tigers began their fourth week of spring football.

Coach Gus Malzahn said, "For the most part our guys flew around and acted like they wanted to practice."

Asked what stood out after grading video from Saturday's scrimmage, the coach said, "The big thing is we needed to be more physical. As a group we have to play with great effort on both sides of the football.

"Our standard is high," he added. "Our coaches are very strict on our guys with assignments, loafs and everything that goes with it. It (scrimmage two) gave us some good information and we are trying to improve."

Working out in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts, Auburn's 10th of 15 spring practices lasted two hours. Another point of emphasis was third down situations as the Tigers practiced third down and medium distance plays along with third down and long plays.

Senior center Reese Dismukes (left) competes in a drill with senior defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker on Tuesday.

Commenting on Tuesday's practice, running back Corey Grant said, "Today we just tried to get better. We came out in shells to try to stay away from injuries. Today was just a regular practice--nothing too specific on anything...effort and make sure that you finish."

Asked about how the offense is progressing as the Tigers head into the final one-third of their spring practice schedule, Grant said, "We are doing a lot better than we did last year.

"Up to this point we are still working," he added. "We have got a lot of areas we have got to get better in, but I am pretty impressed up to this point where the offense is at."

Grant and fellow senior Cameron Artis-Payne both noted that after Tuesday's practice they aren't sure what the depth chart looks like at running back where redshirt freshman Peyton Barber is also competing for playing time. "Coach hasn't said anything to me (about the depth chart) and I know he probably hasn't said anything to Cam because he would probably pull us in at the same time," Grant said.

"It is not really a big deal to me," said Grant. "At the end of the day it is the SEC football so you have to roll each game with two or three backs."

Artis-Payne, who was the Offensive MVP of the A-Day Game last year, said the backs haven't been told where they stand on the depth chart. "Everybody just continues working," he said. "We don't really know too much at this point."

Artis-Payne gave Mason a battle to be the No. 1 back last season and said he feels "great" about how he has been performing this spring. "That's up to the coaches," he said of who will be the starter. "That's something where they will watch film and see what they like and see what we need to work on. Everybody is fighting for that role. At the end it's ultimately the coaches' decision. You just have to keep working."

Malzahn said on Tuesday that the competition to replace Mason as Auburn's No. 1 running back is "about status quo."

The coach pointed out, "All three guys are getting equal reps with the ones. Coach Horton (running backs coach Tim Horton) and Coach Lashlee (offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee) are getting good information. Like I have said, you can't have enough depth at that position. I think all three of guys can execute our base offense."

Commenting on the decision to move players on the offensive line for scrimmage two, Malzahn said, "We are trying to develop depth at different positions. In spring, especially when you have got a bunch of veteran guys, you can move some guys around to see what the depth will look like and play some ‘what ifs' if you go through injuries next fall. It is always good to learn information up front."

In Saturday's scrimmage Avery Young moved inside to right guard from right tackle, right guard Chad Slade worked at left guard and Patrick Miller, who has been competing with Shon Coleman for the vacant starting spot at left tackle, worked at right tackle.

The returning starter at the "star" rover spot on defense, Robenson Therezie, said the Tigers are working to develop a solid three-deep situation at his position with Justin Garrett playing there along with Mackenro Alexander.

Commenting on Alexander, who saw game action last fall as a true freshman, Therezie said, "He's getting better working on his technique and leverage, which is a big thing for us at ‘star' when it comes to man coverage. He's coming along very good. and so is Justin Garrett.

Robenson Therezie

Therezie, a senior, said that in his opinion that Alexander is one of the young players who has stood out at practice this spring while newcomer Derrick Moncrief, a junior who transferred from junior college in January, is also doing well.

"We expect a lot of big things out of Moncrief," Therezie said. "He is coming along almost like a veteran guy. He understand the concepts of the defense we run. We just need him pace-wise."

Something numerous players on offense and defense have mentioned this spring is that quarterback Nick Marshall has been improving this spring.

Quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall run a drill at Tuesday's practice.

"He's looking real good," Therezie said. "They're repping him on throwing a lot. He has a good arm. I knew he had a good arm since last year when he first stepped on campus. He's coming along."

In other news and notes:

*Keymiya Harrell did not practice and is listed as "day to day" by Malzahn. In Saturday's scrimmage the defensive end went down with an injury to the same knee he hurt in spring 2013, causing him to miss the entire season. Asked if Harrell is out for the rest of the spring, the coach said, "We'll see."

*Another defensive end, Elijah Daniel, was back at practice on Tuesday after being held out of the scrimmage with a groin injury.

*Defensive tackle Tyler Nero, who has been suffering from concussion-like symptoms, is still not practicing and Malzahn did not say when he would return.

*Wide receiver Ricardo Louis was not in pads for the past two practices. The head coach said the issue is a "minor ailment" and added, "He's fine."

*Malzahn noted that senior Brandon King is "more comfortable" this spring at safety after making the move from "star" where he was a little-used backup last year after transferring to AU from Highland Community College in Kansas. "It looks to me like he is getting better," the coach said. "He wants to be good. He plays with good effort."

Brandon King

Therezie agreed with the coach about King. "Brandon King is another one who stood out to me at safety," Therezie said. "He was at ‘star' last season, but at safety he is getting it going. He fits the size and everything. We know he can tackle and cover. We just need him to catch up with the defense and learn both positions at safety."

*The Tigers will return to practice on Thursday. Their annual A-Day Game is set for Saturday, April 19th at 2 p.m.

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