Malzahn Looking For "Bite" From His Tigers

News, notes and quotes from Auburn's fifth spring football practice are featured.

Quarterback Sean White is shown in Auburn's fifth spring practice.

Auburn, Ala.--Physical play continued to be a theme as the Auburn football team finished its second week of spring practice with a two-hour workout in full pads on Thursday with the head coach noting he is looking to see his Tigers show some “bite” when playing the game.

“We are just trying to get our guys to learn to practice, to finish practice,” Coach Gus Malzahn said. “I think we have taken steps in the right direction. I just got through telling our guys I like where we are at this point as a unit.

“We have guys pushing theirselves trying to get better each day, trying to learn to practice, to hang in there mentally and physically,” the coach said.

With five of the 15 spring workout dates completed, the Tigers will be off from practice for nearly two weeks. Following a 7 a.m. team meeting on Friday the Tigers will be free to leave after classes later that day with the university being on spring break next week.

“We were doing the half-line, the inside, we were doing the team vs. the defense, we were getting after it,” Malzahn said about Thursday’s practice. “We are going old school trying to get our edge back, trying to get our guys to bite. I think they have gotten better each practice.”

Commenting on the defense, which is under new management with Will Muschamp the coordinator, Malzahn said, “They are learning to play extremely hard. They are getting strained right now so I feel good overall about where we will be at the end of spring.”

Travaris Robinson is the new secondary coach and Lance Thompson is the new linebacker coach. “With Will as the leader they work extremely close together,” Malzahn said. “They have very good energy. They are all on the same page and they are flat getting after it. The standard is high over there.”

JaViere Mitchell runs a drill as new linebacker coach Lance Thompson watches.

The coach added that the 2015 team is in the process of figuring out who its leaders will be. “When you strain guys, usually the leaders will rise to the top.”

On offense the Tigers must replace two-year starting quarterback Nick Marshall. Asked how redshirt freshman quarterback Sean White is doing so far this spring in the competition to replace Marshall, Malzahn said, “He can really throw the football. He is very accurate. He has a strong arm. He understands trajectory and he knows where to throw the ball. He has made some impressive throws and I think, for the most part, he has done a good job of executing the offense.

Malzahn noted that White has a good understanding of the base offense after redshirting last fall, but pointed out that the QB didn’t get a large number of “quality reps” during the 2014 season while spending time on the scout team.

“He is in a good position,” Malzahn said. “He is battling battling Jeremy hard right now.”

With senior Jonathan Wallace now a full-time wide receiver and sophomore transfer Jason Smith getting reps at wide receiver, the other quarterback in the mix this spring along with Jeremy Johnson is Tyler Queen, a December graduate from North Cobb High in Kennesaw, Ga.

“He is really adjusting pretty well,” Malzahn said of Queen, a four-year starter in high school. “We ask a lot of our quarterbacks and you are talking about a guy who just got here. We are putting in the installation fairly quick. Overall, I thought he has handled it fairly well.”

Freshman Tyler Queen does a footwork drill as QB coach/offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee watches.

Commenting on Wallace, Malzahn said, “He reminds me of (former AU player) Kodi Burns. “He understands offenses, he understands defenses. He has got a good head on his shoulders.”

Another early high school graduate, Chandler Cox from Apopka, Fla., High, is off to a good start like Queen, according to Malzahn.

Cox is cross-training this spring. In addition to playing fullback and H-back he is also lining up at tight end along with redshirt freshmen Chris Laye and Kamryn Pettway.

Chandler Cox, Scout’s No. 1 ranked fullback in the 2015 signee class, runs a drill during his first spring at Auburn.

“Chandler Cox is another guy who has picked up things well,” Malzahn said.

In other news and notes:

*In keeping with the head coach’s theme of building toughness this spring, safety Johnathan Ford said that with Muschamp directing the defense he can see “a whole lot of signs” that the coordinator is demanding a more physical style of play. “It is making us change everything,” the junior safety said. “Right now we are going to attack a lot more. We are bringing all that physical play.

“We can pick out who is going to be soft,” said Ford, Auburn’s leading tackler last season. “Other than that everybody is going to run to the ball, fly to the ball. We want a tough defense. Our defense is going to change this year so we are going to be a tough defense.”

Roc Thomas will be a sophomore running back for the 2015 Tigers is competing to move up to No. 1 on the depth chart to replace 2014 senior Cameron Artis-Payne.

*Malzahn will step away from football for a few days to be with his family for a wedding. Asked about that, he said, “I tell you what, I am very excited. My youngest daughter is getting married and now that this last practice is over we will grade our film and I will kind of move on to that, but I'm excited. It’s a big weekend. We are really looking forward to it.”

*Earlier on Thursday the coach was in Birmingham to speak at a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts of America. “That is a great cause,” he said. “There were a lot of people there, a lot of Auburn fans and it was a lot of fun to be a part of that.”

*The Tigers will return to practice on Tuesday, March 31st.

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