Malzahn Sees Progress In Scrimmage Two

A report on Auburn's second major football scrimmage of the spring is featured.

Jovon Robinson (29), a transfer from Georgia Military College, runs the football in Saturday's scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn said the offense improved relative to the defense from scrimmage one to two and Auburn’s head football coach noted he was generally pleased with what he saw on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

There were five offensive touchdowns scored in the scrimmage portion of the practice, which featured approximately 60 plays, two-thirds the number from the first spring football scrimmage a week earlier that was dominated by the defense.

“Overall, I liked our attitude, our intensity, our energy,” Malzahn said. “Our guys, I felt, were wanting to be coached--flying around.

“We just have to work on being more consistent,” he said. “We are letting everybody play like we did last scrimmage, too. Obviously, our expectations are high with the guys who are returning, but we are finding out a lot of information from a coaches’ standpoint in these scrimmages.”

The Tigers are a week out from their annual spring game. The A-Day contest will kick off at 1 p.m. next Saturday.

Junior quarterback Jeremy Johnson throws a pass in Saturday's scrimmage.

Asked what format the team will use for A-Day, the head coach said, “We are a little banged up, but it will be similar to last year and the year before. We will have two different groups--put the offense on one sideline and the defense on the other sideline. It will be something similar to that.

“Once we see how we made it through this scrimmage here, probably Tuesday or Thursday, I will be able to be more specific,” the coach said. “We are playing in front of a big crowd. We want to make it worth our fans’ time and at the same time, from a coaches’ standpoint, we want to see how our guys perform in front of a crowd. We are really looking forward to that.”

Each of the three running backs competing for the starting spot vacated by 2014 senior Cameron Artis-Payne scored a touchdown on Saturday. One of those players, newcomer Jovon Robinson, said he feels good about the way he is making progress in his competition with Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber.

“I feel like my spring now has been probably the best spring I have ever had in my life because the material I’ve been introduced to,” Robinson said. “I feel so focused on it and it is like no other type of focus I have had in my life. Right now, I just feel like this spring is escalating with everyone on the team.”

Robinson, a 6-0, 230 junior, won praise earlier in the week from his position coach, Tim Horton, for the improvements he is making as a blocker.

“It’s great competition across the board,” Robinson said of his battle for playing time with sophomores Thomas and Barber. “Obviously, I’m the oldest in the running back group so it’s a lot of pressure, just off initial age difference, but I feel like I’m picking it up pretty good and I plan on having fun in the spring game.”

Malzahn said the plan is to continue to give all three running backs plenty of opportunities with the first and second units. Commenting on Saturday’s session at the stadium, Malzahn noted the Tigers did live work with field goals and extra points as well as kickoff returns and coverage.

“Our emphasis was on the edge,” the coach said. “We hadn't done that to this point. We had a third-down period with our ones and twos. In a scripted scenario, we had a two-minute situation with our ones and our two with officials.

“We ended up having about a 60-play scrimmage when we put the ball down and let the guys play. In the middle of it we had two live kickoffs and kickoff returns. Last week was punt, punt return.

Malzahn declared the defense the clear winner of scrimmage one. His verdict on scrimmage two? “I think it was a little bit of both today. I think the defense had a big interception (linebacker Tre Williams)--almost returned it for a touchdown. The offense scored a couple of times. I think it was a little bit of both.”

Quarterback Tyler Queen scored on a short run after hooking up on a long pass to Myron Burton and walk-on receiver Gray King got the other score with backups on the field.

Daniel Carlson is focused on his field goals and kickoffs this spring. Last fall he also punted.

Asked if the offensive play was up to his standards, the coach said, “Our standards are extremely high. It is hard for me to say when you rotate three different groups in there. It was better.

"After the spring, we will be able to see everything and judge as far as that goes.I think it was across the board. I think it was a pretty even scrimmage. There were some good things on both sides of the football.The energy, I thought, was very good.”

A major theme of spring is being physical on both sides of the ball. Asked his opinion of that aspect of his team’s play in scrimmage two, Malzahn said, “It was good. We ran the ball more. We focused on the gap game more today. It was kind of a more zone game the first scrimmage. We really tried to run the downhill and tried to stop the run.”

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers have just four more spring practices left, including A-Day. They will be on the field Tuesday and Thursday next week and wrap up spring drills the Monday after the A-Day Game.

*Commenting on the quarterback play, Malzahn said, “I think they did some good things. Jeremy (Jeremy Johnson) had a better scrimmage than he had the first scrimmage. He has had a real good week. Sean is doing a solid job, too.”

Sean White throws a pass in Saturday's scrimmage.

*Defensive end Carl Lawson, who is recovering from knee surgery that kept him out last season, got work in the situational portions of the scrimmage. The same is true of guard Alex Kozan, who is recovering from back surgery.

“It looks that way,” Malzahn said of the possibility that Kozan will be full speed for the fall. “We are pleased with where he is at right now. It is very encouraging.”

*Defensive end Raashed Kennion, who has a concussion, missed the scrimmage for a second straight week. Linebacker Justin Garrett (ankle sprain) and cornerback Jonathan Jones (foot injury) did not participate in the scrimmage.

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