Tigers Put On the Full Pads For First Time

Comments from Gus Malzahn plus news and notes are featured from Auburn's football practice.

Blake Countess returns at punt at Saturday’s practice. He is a graduate student transfer from the University of Michigan, who is competing for playing time at cornerback.

While the big news of Saturday’s Auburn football practice was Gus Malzahn saying that Duke Williams won’t be allowed to practice again until he gets out of the coach’s doghouse, the Tigers put on the full pads for the first time and Malzahn said his Tigers got through the heat and made some progress.

“It was an okay first day in pads,” Malzahn said. “I really felt like our guys came out with some good energy. We got some good reps with the old guys.

“We’ve got quite a few with the new guys and I knew I’ve said that the past couple of days, but we’re really trying to evaluate those guys as soon as we can to make decisions in all three phases.

“We worked third down, we worked red zone and we are in good position for our scrimmage on Monday,” he said. “We’re going to have a good scrimmage. We’re going to go to the game field and that will be a good evaluation piece with that.”

While Malzahn did not want to talk about what Williams did to get in enough trouble to be held out of practice, he did talk about other receivers who are doing well.

“The good thing is we got a lot of receivers that we feel very good about,” Malzahn said. “Ricardo Louis is a guy that has really done a good job in fall camp. We talked about him raising his level and taking that next step and becoming a leader. He’s done that.

Melvin Ray has done a solid job. Those are our two seniors, along with Jonathan Wallace and we’re relying on those guys for leadership.”

The coach added that junior Marcus Davis also belongs in the category of being a receiver with leadership skills.

Wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig talks to his players at Saturday’s practice.

The Tigers practiced for two hours on Saturday with the temperature at 97 degrees to start the workout. The newcomers got some live scrimmage style work with referees in attendance while the returnees will have the first of two preseason scrimmages on Monday.

“We do have some information about our older guys, specifically the guys that played a lot last year,” Malzahn said. “The big focus is whether it is freshmen or inexperienced guys that haven’t played a lot of reps. We’re going to give them a lot of reps. The big thing for our staff is putting the pieces of the puzzle together in all three phases before we get too far down after fall camp.”

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Andrew Williams runs through a drill on Saturday during the first full pads practice of spring training.

Sophomore Nick Ruffin, who played cornerback as a freshman, is working at free safety and boundary safety this preseason.

Ruffin, who is up to 200 pounds after adding “about 15 pounds since spring ball,” said the extra size is needed at safety. “I am definitely more comfortable and I am a lot more confident than I was in the spring,” he said. “I think so far it is paying off.”

After spring practice defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said the Tigers are short on depth at the safety spots behind first-stringers Johnathan Ford and Tray Matthews. “It is definitely a challenge any time a coach says a spot is open,” Ruffin said.

“That is a challenge to his players if you want it go get it--it is open and I didn’t take any offense to it,” Ruffin added. “That is just how it is. He wants to find the best players and I am working to be the best player I can be so I take that as a challenge.”

Nick Ruffin, who the Tigers signed out of St. Pius X in Atlanta last year, is shown at Saturday’s practice.

Ruffin said he is seeing carryover from spring practice from the returning players who are gaining comfort playing Muschamp’s schemes.

The sophomore pointed out he also sees talent in the secondary from the true freshmen. “They have a lot of size and a lot of speed,” Ruffin said. “There are a couple of guys there who could definitely help us. Going forward through fall camp we’ll see how they man up.”

In other news and notes:

*Center Austin Golson had his knee wrapped and was on the side at practice. Malzahn said the problem is nothing major.

*The Tigers will return to practice on Monday after participating in Sunday’s Fan Day, which will run from 3:30-5:30 p.m. at Auburn Arena. Gates open at approximately 3 p.m. and there is no admission charge.

Freshman wide receiver Ryan Davis gets work as a punt returner in Saturday’s practice.

*Often-injured senior linebacker Justin Garrett said he hopes his foot and ankle problems have been solved by new shoes.

“With the cleats I knew I was flat footed, but I just found that out when they had Under Armour foot specialist come here during the summer around June and they came and looked at my feet,” Garrett said. “I didn't have any arch support with my cleats and the base of the cleat wasn't wide enough. That is the reason I kept suffering those foot injuries. Now I've got custom cleats where the base is wide enough for my foot, so I shouldn't have that problem any more.”

Garrett has been playing both the strongside and middle linebacker at practice this preseason for Coach Will Muschamp. “He pretty much wants us to rotate and learn all the linebacker positions so if somebody happens to go down each position,” Garrett said. “I've been working all the linebacker positions.”

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