Redshirt junior Shon Coleman, a returning starter at left tackle, said he believes his group has gotten a lot done even though the Tigers have’t been yet allowed to practice in pads. On Thursday they will be able to put shoulder pads on for the first time this preseason for some limited contact work.
Senior cornerback Josh Holsey, a multi-year starter, said he likes what he is seeing from the defense. He noted that the addition of graduate student transfer Blake Countess from Michigan has been a major plus and predicted the Tigers could get help from their trio of true freshmen cornerbacks--Jeremiah Dinson, Carlton Davis and Javaris Davis.
Holsey also noted that it is evident the cornerbacks and safeties are building a strong bond working together, something that their new position coach, Travaris Robinson, teaches as a point of emphasis.
Commenting on Wednesday evening’s practice, Malzahn said, “I felt like our older guys really responded to the challenge of the standard of practice with the effort, the attitude, the great body language and everything that goes with that.
“Our young guys are learning,” he added. “They are still feeling their way around. (Thursday) we will get in shells and that will tell us a lot more.”
Braden Smith is making a move from tackle to guard this year as a true sophomore. Rated a five-star offensive guard by Scout.com as a high school senior in Kansas, he started one game last season, the bowl loss to Wisconsin. He is shown at Wednesday’s practice that was in shorts and helmets.
“We have got the three of them that went through spring,” Malzahn said. “Kerryon Johnson, we've spent some extra time with him. He is with that young group. We have got those four guys.
"During fall camp for the next two weeks we're going to try give them somewhat equal reps," the coach said. "We're hoping somebody will really raise up, especially in the scrimmages when they're getting tackled, and have some kind of pecking order going in.
“The good thing, like I said before, is the three older guys, we've got some good information,” Malzahn added. “We feel like all of them can run our offense and Kerryon is a talented guy so we'll give him some touches, too, in these scrimmages and see where he's at.”
Asked about building a smoothly functioning run attack with quarterbacks Jeremy Johnson, Malzahn said, "I think it kind of works all of the above and the comfort with the offensive line and the schemes and all that. Those three guys got equal reps in the spring, they’ve got equal reps so far. I think they’re very comfortable with him and Sean (QB Sean White. They all three got reps with Sean. I think the comfort with the quarterback and the run game is really good, it’s just a matter of the line gelling and everything that goes with that."
Marquel Harrell is one of five offensive linemen who joined the team this year as true freshmen.
The team’s oldest player, 26-year-old Melvin Ray, said that he has been impressed with the team’s two true freshman wide receivers.
“Ryan Davis is a heck of an athlete in my opinion,” said Ray, who played minor league pro baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers before enrolling at Auburn. “He works hard.” Davis is 5-9, 164 pounds from St. Petersburg, Fla., where he put up impressive numbers as a high school quarterback.
Melvin Ray runs a drill during Wednesday’s practice.
“Darius Slayton is very intelligent and I am happy to see him get back, get going in the swing of things,” Ray said of the 6-2, 182 newcomer from Norcross, Ga., who was a state champion sprinter in high school.”
The other new receiver is Jason Smith, a juco transfer who arrived in January after playing quarterback last season. “He reminds me a lot of Quan Bray,” Ray said. “He’s a really fast guy, really elusive guy. He works really hard. He takes the game seriously. He’s very critical of himself and I know for a fact that he’s looking to improve day by day.”
Ray, who noted he is trying to be a good leader as a senior, said, “I’m excited to see what all of them can do.”
In other news and notes:
*Malzahn had these comments on freshman receivers Davis and Slayton. “We’re getting a little more one-on-one time with them towards the end of practice," AU's third-year head coach said. "Just from what we’ve seen both of them are talented like we thought. It’s just going to be a matter of once we get in pads, usually you can really tell who’s ready or who needs some time, but both of them definitely have talent.”
*Tray Matthews, a projected starter at safety, missed Tuesday’s practice due to what Malzahn said was a personal matter. The 6-1, 213 redshirt sophomore was on the field Wednesday working with defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson.
Tray Matthews is shown at Wednesday’s workout.
*The Tigers will be on the field again on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before their first practice break on Sunday when they participate in Fan Day that runs from 3:30-5:30 p.m. CDT at Auburn Arena.
Richard McBryde is a true freshman who will try to get on the field this fall and avoid a redshirt season. He is 6-1, 227 pounds from Charles Henderson High in Troy.