Maurice Swain runs a drill at Tuesday’s practice.
Auburn, Ala.--Gus Malzahn declared that he liked what he saw on Tuesday evening as his Auburn football Tigers returned to the practice field for the stretch run of spring training.
“I am very pleased today,” the coach said. “I really feel that overall our guys had great energy. We challenged them before practice.
“You know the last week of spring practice, with a lot of teams a lot of times, guys will let up again, especially before a big spring game, but our guys had as much energy as they have had all spring,” Malzahn said.
“It was a very physical practice,” the coach said of the two-hour session in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. “Guys were flying around trying to get better. I thought that was a big-time positive.”
The coach noted that looking at “the big picture” his team took a step forward on Tuesday and for the spring as a whole. “Overall, I feel very good where we are at, especially after today,” Malzahn said.
Defensive lineman Maurice Swain agreed with the head coach’s assessment of the practice. “I saw more intensity,” Swain said. “I guess everyone was happy because it is winding on down.
“Everyone was flying around, getting all of the calls right,” he said. “There wasn’t too much Coach had to say to get us right.”
The Tigers will practice just one more time before Saturday’s 1 p.m. A-Day Game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. At Tuesday’s practice the focus was on making sure players on both offense and defense have their assignments down before playing their spring game. Malzahn said there will be more of that on Thursday plus work on special situations like third downs and red zone plays.
Malzahn said the final scrimmage of the spring is a very important one for players who don’t have substantial college game experience. “We have a lot of guys competing for positions,” he pointed out, noting the coaches are eager to see how those players perform.
After grading the video from Saturday’s scrimmage, the head coach said, “You can tell on both sides of the football our guys are understanding the standard as far as effort. I thought the execution was better on both sides.
"We have some of the young guys who are starting to figure out what the expectations are. I took away that our guys are trying to play physical, trying to do what they are asked to do.”
Asked what he wants to see in the A-Day Game, Malzahn said that he wants to evaluate how his players perform in front of a crowd. “Every spring game, or at least the last two, there have been one or two guys who really raised their level. We are really hoping to see that because guys react different when they get in front of a crowd. Hopefully, they react different in a positive way.”
Travaris Robinson, the team’s new defensive backs coach, said he feels comfortable being back at Auburn where he played collegiately for Tommy Tuberville and where he got his start as a student assistant coach.
Asked how the secondary is performing this spring, Robinson said, “They are good. Obviously, we came from a great secondary at Florida where we had some really talented dudes. Coming in there were some things we had to fix technique-wise, eye control-wise, schematics of what we were doing just teaching the base fundamentals of our defense.
“They are starting to get it,” Robinson pointed out. “You see constant improving of technique. We aren’t getting bullied around in one-on-ones and things like that. We are going to be fine. I am excited about the guys we have.
“Obviously, we are going to need some of these freshmen coming in to help us just from a strict numbers point,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of guys. We have to get more depth.”
Travaris Robinson made the move back to Auburn after Will Muschamp was hired to coordinate the defense.
“You have got to develop depth at that position,” the coach said of the safety spots. “You want to go into the season with five or six guys who can compete and do some things.
Johnathan “Rudy” Ford is shown at Tuesday’s practice.
“Then outside at cornerback Jonathan (returning starter Jonathan Jones who is out with an injury) is not out there, but Josh (Josh Holsey) is playing really good and Stephen Roberts has taken the next step as a player so he is going to be fine.”
Another cornerback the Tigers are missing due to an injury is T.J. Davis, who had knee surgery after getting off to a good start in spring drills. “Losing T.J. kind of hurt us a little bit because he was doing a lot better,” Robinson said. “He was one of the bright spots the first three or four practices. This was a guy who was going to be a player for us. Hopefully, we will get him back in September or October--something like that. He is going to be fine.
“At the end of the day we have to continue to build depth,” the coach added. “We have to have four or five corners and three or four safeties who can go in and play. If we can get that done we will be find.”
In other news and notes:
*Tickets for the 1 p.m. A-Day Game, which are $5, can be purchased in advance at AUBTIX.com. They are also available at Auburn area bookstores all week. They will go on sale Saturday at 8 a.m. at the Auburn Arena Ticket Office and at the stadium at 11 a.m.
*Malzahn said the Tigers will have 12-minute quarters with regular football rules the first half of the spring game. “At halftime we’ll see,” he said. “We could run the clock. Special teams will not be live, but we will try to make it as close to a game-like situation as possible.”
*The Tiger Transit shuttles will run both on and off-campus on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. and will conclude at 5 p.m. The shuttle service will run from the following off-campus locations: Village Mall, Duck Sam Ford and the City of Auburn Softball Complex. The shuttles will also run from the following on-campus locations: War Eagle Way, Facilities Division, Lem Morrison and Donahue Drive, Woodfield and Donahue, West Parking Lot and the Samford Avenue Community Garden.
Tre Williams is pushing for a starting spot as the middle linebacker.
*The Tiger Fan Fest featuring a live DJ, a frisbee dog show, inflatable games, dunk tank, rock wall, petting zoo, face painting, autograph tent, appearances by the Auburn spirit squads and food vendors will be located on the campus green space east of Jordan-Hare Stadium beginning at 10 a.m.
*The Tiger Walk is scheduled to begin at around 11:45 a.m. on Saturday.
*There will be a post-game autograph session for approximately 45 minutes after the A-Day Game concludes.
*Wide receiver Tony Stevens was held out of Tuesday’s practice and is listed as “doubtful” to be cleared to play in the spring game, although Malzahn said the injury is “nothing that will be too serious.”
*Another player who missed the practice with an injury, “buck” end Cameron Toney, is expected to be available for the game.
*Malzahn said a decision has not been whether or not offensive guard Alex Kozan or defensive end Carl Lawson will be allowed to play in the A-Day Game. Both have seen limited contact this spring after missing the 2014 season with surgeries. Kozan’s surgery was on his back while Lawson had his knee repaired. Kozan said after Tuesday’s practice he is still working on getting his time back, but feels “100 percent” healthy.