Auburn, Ala.--Coach Gus Malzahn said that all of his players were present or accounted for on Tuesday as the Auburn football team opened preseason drills with a split workout that lasted more than two hours.
The only missing player was Tray Matthews, a projected starter at safety. Malzahn said the transfer from the University of Georgia missed the workout to take care of personal business, but should be back on the practice field on Wednesday.
Working out in shorts and helmets, the newcomers mostly watched the older guys practice until the later stages of the practice when the veterans called it a day while the young players stayed on the field to get individual training from the position coaches.
“Really, our focus today was more about our standard, about how to practice with everything as far as effort, body language, execution and all of the above, the head coach pointed out.”
The Tigers spent part of their workout in their air-conditioned indoor facility, but a good bit of the session was outdoors on the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures climbing to 100 degrees in Auburn. Junior wide receiver Marcus Davis said working out in that type of heat was physical draining.
“It was hot out there today, but that was good,” Malzahn said. “We need to get used to the heat. I?think we play two of our first three games (Jacksonville State and LSU) during the day outside.”
The head coach noted that offensive line coach J.B. Grimes went beyond the call of dutying by showing up at practice in the heat just six days after having “major surgery” to have a cancerous growth removed from his tongue. “J.B. is probably the toughest coach in college football,” Malzahn said. “That he is out there is really something.
J.B. Grimes is shown at Tuesday’s practice.
“(Graduate assistant offensive line coach) Johnny Brewer is helping him and has been with him or three years, but Coach Grimes is a rock.” Malzahn said.
Junior offensive tackle Avery Young was also impressed with Grimes. “He is real tough,” Young said. “That is how O-linemen are meant to be and he shows it a lot being a (former) O-lineman himself. I am really proud of him and I think it is kind of crazy. I would have been laying down somewhere.”
Young added, “It shows us how much he cares about us and how much he is looking for us to have a great season.”
First team quarterback Jeremy Johnson runs toward the end zone at Tuesday’s practice.
The Tigers have a full month before opening the season vs. Louisville at the Georgia Dome so there is time to work with the newcomers. Malzahn said that was a point of emphasis on Tuesday.
“We feel like we have some younger guys who will have a chance to help us this year so we want to make sure and give them a good foundation early in fall camp so they can really retain it better because things are going to get going pretty quick in three or four days.
“Overall, we saw some information that was good,” Malzahn added. “We saw some things we need to improve on that will be good information for our coaches to grade film and watch it with our players.”
Byron Cowart (9), a five-star defensive end signee from Seffner, Fla., is expected to contribute this fall. Also pictured are redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Dontavius Russell (95) and redshirt sophomore defensive end Carl Lawson (55).
In other news and notes:
*Malzahn said the Tigers reported in good health for the opening preseason practice. Only junior cornerback T.J. Davis, who had surgery in the spring to repair an ACL injury, is not expected to be ready for the opener among the returning players.
From the newcomers defensive end Prince Tega Wanogho, who had surgery in January to repair a broken leg, is not expected to be cleared to play to open the season.
*The coach said that senior defensive lineman Davonte Lambert’s rehab from a 2014 knee injury has gone very well. “He is a real positive energy guy and he is a leader/ His teammates respect him and that is good.” He said the same is the case with Alex Kozan, who missed last season after having a back injury.
*The Tigers will have single practices daily this week through Saturday with their first day off on Sunday when the players will participate in Fan Day at Auburn Arena, which will run from 3:30-5:30 p.m. CDT.
*Malzahn said it was a positive having all of his signees on campus this summer, allowing them to participate in strength and conditioning drills with Coach Ryan Russell and his staff. He noted that it is too early to say any of the newcomers have stood out at practice, but he said there is a chance that members of the 2015 signee class will be able to contribute in a significant way this fall.
“We are recruiting a lot of guys, guys that can come in and play immediately and we had some success with some true freshmen in 2013 and I think this class will have some guys who will have a chance to do that,” the coach said. “We have a very mature team. We have a team that welcomes their teammates and they are pulling for them and they want them to do well because they know they can help us win.”
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