Young Players Featured In Initial Scrimmage

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn talks about Wednesday's scrimmage as he football team prepares for its opening game.

Auburn, Ala.--The newcomers and the running game were the focus of Auburn’s first preseason football scrimmage on Wednesday.

Coach Gus Malzahn said the session, which featured approximately 70 plays at Jordan-Hare Stadium, gave the coaches good information to study before making personnel decisions about the freshmen and other young players who were featured in the session.

“Mainly it was more reps for the young guys than the older guys, but we did get some work in pre-practice (for the veteran players),” Malzahn said. “It was hot out there, which is good, trying to get acclimated to the heat--especially the fact we play a 3 p.m. game (opener vs. Arkansas).

“I believe we ran it two out of three times and we also got some special teams work in, which I thought was good any time you have a new kicker, a new punter and everything that goes with that,” Malzahn said.

“For the most part it was good to get out there. I?think we got some really good information from our guys, especially the young guys--who can tackle, who can do the little things. It will be good for our coaches to watch the film and everything that goes with it.”

Asked if anything stood out to him at the scrimmage, Malzahn said, “There were some pretty good licks out there. We had some guys flying to the ball and the young guys were really flying to the ball. That is what stands out. The tackling wasn’t great. The first scrimmage, that’s always part of it.”

The coach added, “We have got some guys I feel can help us. Until you see the film and see the ins and outs and everything that goes with it, it is really hard to go any more past that.”

The Tigers will open the season on August 30th with an SEC test vs. the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks. Malzahn noted that the Tigers were able to practice “real football” on Wednesday, something that is very useful to the coaching staff.

“We are trying to make decisions as quick as we can as far as all the new guys whether they can help offensively and defensively, and some on special teams, too. We did some special teams work at the start of practice, which I thought was very good. We really focused on the punt once again trying to figure out who is going to win the punting job. I have been trying to give everybody an opportunity with that.”

Malzahn wouldn’t say there is a No. 1 punter right now. “Hopefully, we will figure that out sooner than later.”

Jimmy Hutchinson

Redshirt freshman Jimmy Hutchinson was the No. 1 punter in spring drills, but struggled in the A-Day Game. Walk-on redshirt sophomore Tyler Stovall, a former pro baseball player who also holds for field goals, is competing for the assignment along with newcomer Matthew Shiel from Australia. Daniel Carlson, the No. 1 kicker, has been practicing at punter, too.

Senior offensive guard Chad Slade missed practice for a second day in a row. Malzahn said the injury is not a serious one, which he added is also the case with defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence and cornerback Trovon Reed, who also missed the scrimmage. “Fall camp, especially the guys we have a lot of information about, we just want to be smart,” the coach said.

Junior Devonte Danzey worked with the ones at left guard on Wednesday. “We have really seen him improve,” Malzahn said. “In spring we saw him improve and he has even raised his level more. It is also good to put guys in with certain groups and see how they respond. So far he has responded well and we are trying to develop depth in the offensive line, especially without Kozan (injured left guard Alex Kozan who is out for the season.)”

Jeremy Johnson, who is expected to start the opener at quarterback, played in the scrimmage along with freshman Sean White and walk-on Tucker Tuberville. Nick Marshall, the returning starter, practiced on Wednesday, but did not scrimmage. “Sean White got quite a bit (of playing time) and Tucker Tuberville did, too,” Malzahn said.

“He can throw the ball on time,” Malzahn said of White. “Of course, we knew that when we recruited him. Really, what we ask our quarterbacks to do pre-snap, there is a lot of communication and then you have got to think about the play and how the defense is adjusting. We have been pleased with him so far. He has been able to pick up things at a pretty good rate. Just looking out there, watching from behind, there wasn’t a whole of just busts, complete busts, as far as communication and as far as execution. I thought he threw the ball solid.”

Malzahn noted that the young running backs got plenty of work in the scrimmage with redshirt freshman Peyton Barber joining true freshmen Kamryn Pettway and Roc Thomas as the ball carriers. “All three of those guys got a chance to show us what they can do,” he said. “It is not just about running. There is a lot more to it. There is pass protection, lining up on the right side, getting the right depth, getting out on a route and understanding all of it.”

Peyton Barber

Asked how he thought he performed in his first time in a scrimmage since suffering a high ankle sprain on his first play in the A-Day game, Barber said, “I feel like it went pretty well,” who noted he got a lot of practice time and said he is 100 percent physically. “I am just glad to be back out there,” he said.

Wednesday was the first of the two-a-days practices for the Tigers. The focus for the second practice is “special situations,” special teams and a lot of teaching, according to the head coach. Malzahn noted it is import to work on “all of those situations that could come up during the season--this is the time you do it.”

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