Auburn, Ala.--With four practices in the books offensive coordinator, Rhett Lashlee, said Auburn’s offense as a whole has been solid and his No. 1 quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, has stepped up his performance to a higher level.
“There has been a lot of good intensity at practice, a lot of good competition,” Lashlee said on Friday evening. “There are some guys that are really raising their level and shown us a lot and some guys who still have a ways to go.”
Lashlee, who doubles as quarterback coach, said the guy at the top of the QB depth chart is performing better than he did in spring when he won the starting role.
“I have always believed in Jeremy and felt good about him,” Lashlee said. “He has even raised his level. He has been different. You can tell there is a different sense of urgency, a different level of focus, and it has been great.
“He is very confident and he has really been encouraging all of his teammates,”?Lashlee pointed out. “More than anything he has been performing well, which is the No. 1 thing you can do to lead is go out there and show them how to do it. He has been doing that and we have a lot of guys following him.”
Commenting on backup quarterbacks Sean White, a redshirt freshman, and true freshman Tyler Queen, Lashlee said, “Sean has been a little bit up and down the first couple of days, but overall he has been exactly what we thought he was.
“He does a lot of things well. He is a smart kid and he throws the ball extremely well. After being here a year and going through a spring he is pretty comfortable with what we are doing so that is good.
“Both Tyler Queen and (walk-on) Tucker Tuberville have been getting reps and been doing nice,” the coach added.
Sean White (above) is the Tigers’ second team quarterback.
Freshman Tyler Queen, who joined the team in January as an early graduate from high school, is shown at Friday’s practice.
A former quarterback, redshirt sophomore Jason Smith, made the move to wide receiver in spring training. Lashlee noted that the transfer from junior college is off to a good start this preseason.
“I think this summer really helped him,” Lashlee said. “He has put on some good weight. You can just tell he is more muscular. He looks more like a wideout now. He is confident--things are moving slower. You can just tell he is in a good place.”
Lashlee also said that seniors Melvin Ray and Ricardo Louis plus junior Marcus Davis are off to good starts this preseason. “He (Ray) is making plays when they need to be made and Marcus Davis, the same thing.”
Lashlee noted that the coaches are expecting Louis to have his most productive season. “He has really been practicing well,” the coach said.
The offensive coordinator said that running backs Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber are off to good starts as well as centers Austin Golson, a redshirt sophomore, and senior Xavier Dampeer, who had a very good workout on Friday.
The Tigers worked on field goals on Friday and the returning starter, Daniel Carlson, said he feels like he is off to a good start. Carlson, who also punted last year, has just been practicing field goals and kickoffs this spring. He said the key thing he is working on is timing and execution with the entire kick protection unit.
Two other players are getting the reps at punter--Kevin Phillips and Ian Shannon. From what he has seen so far, Carlson said he doesn’t expected to have to punt this year, which is something he prefers not to do.
True freshman Ian Shannon is competing for the starting assignment as the punter with Kevin Phillips, a juco transfer who joined the team in January.
Marcus Davis looks for the football in a punt return drill on Friday. The redshirt junior is the favorite to win the assignment handled by 2014 senior Quan Bray.
In other news and notes:
*Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dontavius Russell is being counted on to contribute in a major way this year. He won praise from his position coach, Rodney Garner, in the spring and preseason for his work ethic, attention to detail and improvement.
The former Carrollton, Ga., High School star said he is working on taking his play to a higher level prior to the opener vs. Louisville.
“I can always get better at something so right now I’m trying to get better at hand placement because there is a situation where if I can get my hands in, first I can control people a lot better, so my coach has been telling me to get better at hand placement,” said Russell, who is 6-3, 295 pounds.
“Everybody needs to get better at hand placement and pad level,” Russell added. “He (Garner) said my hands can’t get quick enough so I’m trying to get them quicker and get them on people before they can get them on me.”
*Sophomore running back Roc Thomas noted that he has seen a change in Jeremy Johnson now that he is the junior No. 1 quarterback.”He's a lot more focused,” Thomas said. “I really think he's become lot more of a leader. Everything about his game has improved.”
Thomas predicted fans will see that he has improved, too. “I feel a lot different,” he said. “I also feel a lot more confident out there. Last year I felt pretty uptight. Now, it's pretty much fun every practice, and I think it will be pretty much fun in the games also.”
*The Tigers will return to practice on Saturday afternoon for their first full pads practice and on Sunday will be at Auburn Arena for the annual Fan Day, which will run from 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Gates to the arena open at approximately 3 p.m.