Marshall, Mincy Apologize, Lashlee Encouraged

Comments from Auburn's offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee along with players Nick Marshall, Jonathon Mincy and Jeff Whitaker are featured following Sunday's practice.

Auburn, Ala.--After Sunday’s Auburn football practice Coach Rhett Lashlee said he is seeing progress from the offense as the Tigers focused on areas of improvement on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a pair of seniors apologized for off-the-field summer incidents.

The practice session held prior to Auburn’s annual Fan Day event featured work in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts at the football complex.

“The first seven or eight days we were putting in the offense,” Lashlee said. “The last two days, yesterday and today, we really focused more on just cleaning up the base things we are going to rep, hang our hat on and do a lot of.”

Lashlee, who doubles as the quarterback coach, said that Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson have been throwing the ball well in practice. Johnson is scheduled to start game one because Marshall is facing punishment for the off-the-field traffic citations in July.

Marshall, who was not allowed to go to SEC Media Days and the ESPY awards show, jointly apologized to his teammates and coaches last month along with cornerback Jonathon Mincy, who was arrested in June during a traffic stop and charged with second degree possession of marijuana.

“I made a mistake and I am just trying to gain my trust back from the coaches,” Marshall said after Sunday’s practice. “I let my coaches and my family down, and I am trying to gain their trust back, and also the Auburn fans.” Marshall was stopped in Georgia for having illegally tinted windows on his car and was also cited for having less than one ounce of marijuana in his vehicle.

“I put myself in a bad situation I shouldn’t have put myself in and I am just going to learn from my mistake,” said Marshall, who noted he hasn’t been told by Gus Malzahn or Lashlee when he will be able to play in the opener.

“The incident that happened is going to change me as a better man, both on and off the field, and then like I said I am just trying to gain my trust back from my coach and my teammates,” Marshall added.

Marshall said he put his incident in the past, something Mincy also said after Sunday’s practice.

“I made a mistake and just really right now I am very apologetic to everybody who is part of the Auburn Family--the coaches, the fans, my teammates,” Mincy said. “Day in, day out I am just trying to get everybody’s respect back.”

A returning starter at cornerback, Mincy said that he “let everyone down,” but said he has been given support by his teammates, coaches and others, something that Marshall also said.

“I have great support here,” said Mincy, who added, “I just don’t think about it. That is in the past.”

Jonathon Mincy is a returning starter at cornerback.

He said fellow members of the team have been supportive. “My teammates have been here since day one and they are still here,” he noted.

The senior said he appreciates the support he has received from Melvin Smith, his position coach. “Coach Smith has been like the father figure I never had,” said Mincy, who noted that he can talk to Smith about anything on or off he field. “I am very blessed to have him as a coach and just the rest of this coaching staff is a blessing.”

Mincy added that Malzahn hasn’t told him how long he will be sidelined in the opening game. Asked about that, he said, “I trust Coach. That is the biggest thing, just getting his trust back.”

Mincy said getting back on the practice field has been “a great opportunity” and added, “I am just excited for this season.”

One of the reasons he is excited is the potential of the secondary. “It is real big just to have experienced players who have been out there,” he said. “It is going to make a big impact when the game is on the line on third down and fourth down. I just love going out there. Some of the young boys are stepping up. It is just a great feeling.”

Marshall said that he feels good about what he is seeing from the Tigers. “We are going to be very scary on the offensive side of the ball this year,” he predicted.

Lashlee noted that being able to focus on details of the offense has been useful. “It has been good the last two days to get that work done,” he said. “There have been some periods where we emphasized, ‘Hey, here is what the defense needs the most work at.’

“We have kind of brought our stuff and given them some service and the same way them giving us some looks we really need to work on so we can be specific and maximize our reps with our personnel and the guys we need to get certain looks doing certain things.”

The offensive coordinator added, “It has been really good. I?thought, really the last three days, our tempo of practice has been excellent. Our guys have really done a good job. Our leaders have stepped up and done a really good job of kind of maintaining the tempo and energy of practice and not making the coaches do it, which has been good.”

After missing the 2013 SEC Championship season, Jeff Whitaker noted that he is ready to go for his redshirt senior year. “I am excited and I can’t explain it to you how I feel, but I?am feeling real good,” he said.

Whitaker pointed out that his rehab in the offseason went very well and he appreciates the time and effort AU’s trainers put into getting his knee well and adds that he is full speed again for the season opener that is less than three weeks away when Arkansas visits Jordan-Hare Stadium. “They did an amazing job,” said Whitaker, who adds that he feels like his “old self” again on a football field.

Jeff Whitaker

Whitaker said he feels like the 2014 season will be his best and noted that he hopes to regain his spot in the lineup he held in 2011 when he started all 13 games and 2012 when he wasn’t able to play as much due to a knee problem but still managed to start five times. “We are all competitors out there so we are all shooting for the number one spot,” he said.

“My goal is to be relentless and be a physical presence,” the defensive tackle said. “I feel that by accomplishing my goal it will only make the team better. It will only make the D-line better.”

Tackle has the potential to be a strength for the defense, Whitaker declared, but noted the Tigers have to prove that on game days. The group includes fellow seniors Angelo Blackson, Ben Bradley and returning starter Gabe Wright, who is also working at end. Montravius Adams, a sophomore, looks primed for a big season and one of the highlights of preseason camp for the defense has been the performance of Dontavius Russell.

“The rotation is good and I think it is competition as well,” Whitaker said. “It brings out the competitive nature. You root big for everybody, but you see somebody do something good and you want to come in there and do the same thing, and then you feed off of that.

“If someone in there is playing good ball, it’s like tag team,” he added. “I am a big wrestling fan. It is like tapping in, tapping out so it is going to be a good deal.”

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