Lashlee On Lawson: Glad He's an Auburn Tiger

News, notes and quotes from Auburn's Wednesday football practice are featured in this report from Inside the Auburn Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--With a week of football practices in the books, Auburn’s offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee is looking for improved execution and energy from his group.

In the first scrimmage of the preseason the defense controlled the session that did not include a single touchdown.

“I just didn’t like the intensity we showed up with Monday morning offensively,” Lashlee said when discussing the scrimmage. “Looking at the film there weren’t a lot of busts. Our starting group and first two groups didn’t turn the ball over and really didn’t have a lot of penalties, we just didn’t finish and sustain drives.

“We weren’t great on third downs and it was hard to get a lot of momentum going,” Lashlee pointed out. “Our defense to me just showed up with a little more intensity that day. The last time that happened was the first spring scrimmage this year. I felt the same way and our guys responded in the second scrimmage. It was good.

“It got our guys’ attention,” said Lashlee, whose players will look to do better when the Tigers scrimmage again on Saturday.

“They practiced really well these last two days,” Lashlee said. “I expect them to put another good one together (Thursday) and try to come back and redeem ourselves on Saturday.”

One of the reason for the offense’s struggles in scrimmage one was the play of junior “buck” Carl Lawson, who is making a strong comeback after missing the 2014 season with a knee injury.

“I don’t think anybody we have is doing good against him,” Lashlee said when asked if any particular player was struggling to block Lawson. “He’s been very disruptive. I was walking up here with Will (defensive coordinator Will Muschamp) just a minute ago and I was just commenting on how he’s just so disruptive.

“I said two days ago I’m glad he’s on our side on Saturdays because he’s relentless man,” Lashlee added. “He’s got a great motor, on top of incredible ability. Both Avery (Young) and Shon (Coleman) have gotten all they want of that and that’s good for the. They’ve gotten him a few times, but Carl’s really been playing well this fall camp.”

Lashlee had praise for the playing of sophomore running back Roc Thomas.

In addition to Lawson several other defensive linemen won praise for their play on the front. Tackle Maurice Swain is making a push to earn serious playing time in his first season on the Plains. Swain, who arrived in January as a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Community College, will be a junior this season for the Tigers.

“Maurice Swain is a guy I have got a lot of confidence in,” said Will Muschamp, AU’s defensive coordinator. “He had his best scrimmage. We have got to continue to work on pad level. That is the biggest concern I have as far as where he is right now, but as far as want-to and effort and toughness, he’s got it all.”

Commenting on the preseason, Swain said, “As a team as a whole we are just grinding to get better as a defense,” he said. “I am working on a lot of technique stuff to get better. I am just trying to progress every day to get better, taking one step at a time, work on one thing at a time. That is the main focus right now.”

Swain said he has no problem with Muschamp making players earn their spots at the top of the depth chart on a daily basis. If a player has a poor practice, he will drop on the depth chart for the next practice or game.

“I love it because it is fair,” the lineman said. “You know, it is the old motto, ‘what have you done for me lately?’...He is not biased. You have got to show up to play.”

Another January arrival, early high school graduate Tim Irvin from Westminster Christian in Palmetto, Fla., is making a push for playing time as the nickel in Muschamp’s defense.

“Tim has played well,” the coach says. “It is just consistency in his performance for a young player. It is hard. They have a hard time coming in here every day and the volume of information they are getting and the volume of information they are seeing offensively. The volume of stuff we are seeing on special teams. Some guys handle it better than others.

“Tim’s had some really good days,” Muschamp added. “I talked to him (Monday) night for a long time about his consistency in his performance. That is what we have got to get. He has certainly got the ability and he is going to help this football team this year. How much depends on how he continues to progress through fall camp.”

In other news and notes:

*The Tigers will practice Thursday through Sunday before taking a break for the opening of fall semester classes on Monday. The team is scheduled to have its second and perhaps final preseason scrimmage on Saturday at Jordan-Hares Stadium. Gus Malzahn said the coaching staff will evaluate whether or not they need a third scrimmage after Saturday’s session.

*Duke Williams, the top returning receiver, was absent again from Wednesday’s practice so it has been a full week since he worked out with the team. Lashlee said on Wednesday evening that the senior’s status has not changed and any updates on that will come from Gus Malzahn.

*Tony Stevens is a player who his position coach, Dameyune Craig, says has the talent to be an NFL player, but hasn’t been consistent enough to earn a lot of playing time the past two seasons. Lashlee said on Wednesday that the junior receiver from Orlando, Fla., is making progress. “He is having a really solid, steady camp,” the offensive coordinator said.

Tony Stevens caught just one pass as a sophomore.

*Lashlee said all of the four running backs competing for playing time are doing well in camp, but singled out Roc Thomas for the most praise.

“Roc has probably been the most consistent and steadiest,” Lashlee said. “We have been really pleased with his toughness, his ability to pass protect, his ability to get north and south and hammer in there and give us a chance for those electric plays if he does that. He has been very steady.

“I will tell you what--Peyton Barber has done a very nice job,” the coach added. “You can just tell he is very comfortable, very confident. Then Jovon Robinson is continuing to come along. Kerryon Johnson has been very impressive for a true freshman.”

*Newcomer at tight end, Jalen Harris from St. James School in Montgomery, won praise on Wednesday from Lashlee. “Jalen Harris is doing a really, really good job for a true freshman. He has still got light years to go, obviously, but he is about 260 pounds so he is big enough.

"He’s not as big as he is going to be, but he is big enough," Lashlee added. "He is willing to stick his head in there and be physical and he has got good hands. For a true freshman, I have been pleased. He will find a way to help us this year.”

The only other tight end on scholarship is a redshirt freshman. “Chris Laye is better than he has been since he has been here so he has continued to improve," the offensive coordinator said. "That’s a positive.”

*Lashlee noted that fullback/H-backs Kamryn Pettway and Chandler Cox can help with the tight end blocking assignments. “They are two guys that don't have any experience, but we really think they fit real well for what we're doing at that position. That takes a little pressure off Jalen having to do both as much. Now, he's learning it all but, it lets him focus a little more on tight end early on, which has been good.”

*Austin Golson, the projected starter at center, is a player the coaches have high hopes for this season. Golson missed the first scrimmage with what has been described as a minor knee injury, but has returend to practice.

“He’s doing really well,” Lashlee said. “He hasn’t been in a game--he has been in a game in the SEC, just not as a center. I feel really comfortable with Austin right now. He just needs to continue to get reps and continue to get better and more consistent because a guy who hasn’t played a position like that, the more reps he gets the more he gets consistent with execution, and when scenarios arise he learns and gets better. He’s been really good.

“I tell you who has been really good is Xavier Dampeer," Lashlee said of the senior backup center. "When you lose a guy like Reese (Dismukes) it makes you feel really good knowing not only do you have one, but you think you have two guys you can win with at center. I feel that way about those two guys the way they’ve been in fall camp.”

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