Physical "D" Good for Offense, Lashlee Says

A report on Auburn's Tuesday practice is featured with comments from Offensive Coordinator Rhett Lashlee.

Jeremy Johnson throws a pass at Tuesday's practice.

Auburn, Ala.--Back on the practice field for the first time since their scrimmage on Saturday, the Auburn Tigers worked out for more than two hours on Tuesday. Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said the session was a productive one like the previous eight practices have been and had high praise for the toughness of the defense his players have been facing.

“We have had some really good practices and then we had the scrimmage on Saturday,” said Lashlee, who also serves as Auburn’s quarterback coach. “Overall we had some bright spots in the scrimmage, but I didn’t think we performed to the standard we wanted to for the first scrimmage,” he said of the offense.

The defense held the upper hand in Saturday’s scrimmage of 90-plus plays, something the offensive coordinator hopes to change in scrimmage two. “We are obviously looking forward to the second one this Saturday and we were working hard toward that today.

“We are getting to the point where a lot of the base core offense is in so we are trying to rep those things and get good at it,” said Lashlee, who is headed into his third season as Auburn’s offensive coordinator.

“Of course, we are obviously starting to take things to another level with our older guys as far as what we are doing, but we are getting good work.”

The offensive coordinator had praise for the defense’s play in scrimmage number one under the direction of Will Muschamp. “The most important thing I have seen, man, is those guys play with great effort and they fly around,” Lashlee pointed out. “That is a big part of defense.

“You are not always going to be in the right place, you might not always make the right call, but you can make up for a lot of things by playing hard and effort,” Lashlee said.

“The intensity on Saturday they had in the scrimmage was at an all-time high since we have been here in my opinion,” Lashlee declared. “Those guys were excited to play. They were flying around, there were some good licks. They were playing good team defense. That only makes both sides better.”

Lashlee said all three of the quarterbacks (Jeremy Johnson, Sean White and Tyler Queen) “did some things well” in the scrimmage and “did some things not so well.”

The coach noted that White and Queen did a good job with their assignments, but wants to see the entire group play at a higher level so the Tigers can enter the 2015 season with three quarterbacks capable of winning at the SEC level.

“For a guy who is supposed to be in high school, nine practices in Tyler Queen has done some good things,” Lashlee said. “You can tell he has just grown up around the game. He is a coach’s kid, a smart young man, who tries to soak everything in you are telling him.

“He did a good job in the scrimmage on Saturday--we let him be live,” Lashlee added. “That has kind of become a tradition here, your first scrimmage you get to be live, so he did a good job.

“He extended some drives, he threw a touchdown pass on a scramble play and there were a couple of third downs when he extended the play,” Lashlee noted.

“Jeremy and Sean have been solid,” Lashlee said. “They haven’t made a lot of mistakes mentally. They know the offense, they are doing what they are supposed to do. I am just wanting, in the last six practices, those guys to both take the next step to go from just being steady to great.”

Lashlee added, “I want guys who are going to go win the football game.”

The coordinator emphasized the offense has to do a better job of scoring touchdowns than it did in scrimmage one. “I think we had two touchdowns and we had two drives where we drove the ball over 10 plays, once inside the five, and we kicked field goals. We all know too well from two games last year that can’t happen.”

While it is generally assumed Johnson will take over as the starting quarterback with Nick Marshall gone, Lashlee said there is no hurry to name a start at quarterback or any other position while competition is going on during spring practice. “No one has earned a spot yet,” he said.

That is certainly the case at running back where there is a three-player battle to take over for last year’s starter, Cameron Artis-Payne.

Newcomer Jovon Robinson, a transfer from junior college, looks like he is making a strong push to compete with sophomores Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber.

“You look at a guy like Roc Thomas, he had some good runs (in the scrimmage)...but he is so athletic and so talented he thinks he can take every one to the house. Well, in our league there are some pretty good players on defense so sometimes there is nothing wrong with a four, five or six-yard run.

“You have got to be more of a one-cut guy, stick your foot in the ground and get north-south and be willing to take the four, five and six-yard runs, knowing if you do that enough you are going to be good enough to pop some big ones. Every now and then he tries to make the home run play happen and we end up going sideways. We need him to play downhill a little bit more.”

Commenting on Robinson, Lashlee said, “I thought Jovon Robinson did some nice things in the run game for his first scrimmage. I think things are starting to slow down. He is not as far along as Peyton and Roc in knowing the offense, but he shouldn’t be. Things are starting to slow down--he didn’t have a lot of busts in the scrimmage. That was the biggest thing from a running back standpoint.

Also on the plus side, the coach said the running backs were solid with their pass blocking in scrimmage one, but noted they didn’t have a lot of yardage after contact on a day the defense was more physical and aggressive than the offense.

Lashlee said he liked what he saw from fullback/H-backs Kamryn Pettway, a physical redshirt freshman, and early high school graduate Chandler Cox, who pleased the coordinator with several pass receptions and all-around solid play in his first college scrimmage.

“That has been a big bright spot where both of those guys are at just from athleticism, physicality, attitude and intelligence level,”?Lashlee said. “Kamryn Pettway is probably a little further ahead of (Cox) physically, but he should be. He has been in college a year. Chandler is supposed to be in high school still--he came in early.”

The offensive linemen work on their blocking skills at Tuesday’s practice.

Lashlee said the Tigers like what they are seeing at the center position this spring where transfer Austin Golson is looking to take over the vacant spot in a competition with senior Xavier Dampeer, last year’s backup to four-year starter Reese Dismukes.

“We saw some things with Austin that are promising,” the coach said, noting that the former Prattville High standout did a good job of making adjustments to what the defense was doing during the scrimmage. “I think Xavier Dampeer is having a good spring,” Lashlee said. “That has been a real bright spot for us. He is solid, he is steady.

“Both of them are snapping the ball well and that is first and foremost.” The coach said the battle for that starting job is on-going and noted that both are focused on center, not other positions even though they can also play guard and Golson has played tackle.

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers will practice again on Thursday and have their second scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

*Lashlee said that in addition to Queen and Cox, two other early high school graduates, offensive linemen Tyler Carr and Bailey Sharp, are off of to solid starts as college football players.

“It is good that they are here,” the coach said. “You can tell that things move fast for them but it's only going to help them. You get 15 practices here. They've been very coachable, very eager. They're going to have such a foundation when they get through spring, and by the time we get to fall camp, you would expect them to be at a much faster pace than if they weren't here.

Early high school graduate Bailey Sharp is getting practice time at offensive tackle this spring.

“Are they world beaters right now? No, because things are moving fast and we've installed something just about every day we've been here. The defense has installed something new just about every day, but those guys are repping almost like they're backups with the amount of depth we have. That's good. The more reps they get the better, and that's the plus of them being here early.”

*Lashlee said the coaching staff hasn’t decided the format for the spring game. The annual A-Day contest is scheduled for Saturday, April 18.

Junior defensive tackle Montravius Adams takes a break at Tuesday’s Auburn football practice.

*The offensive coordinator said the coaches are giving Jason Smith as much practice time as possible at wide receiver. So far the former quarterback has been doing a good job catching the ball at his new position.

Smith said that he has been getting pointers from senior Duke Williams as well as junior Marcus Davis, a player who made the adjustment from high school quarterback to college receiver. “He has been coaching me up a lot,” Smith said of Davis. “We will have one-on-one sessions where I will throw him the ball if he wants me to throw him some routes or however he can coach me up in similar situations.”

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