Gus Malzahn said Tuesday’s Auburn football practice, a lengthy one in full pads, left something to be desired from an offensive perspective.
“Overall, I wasn’t real pleased with how our team responded, specifically offense,” the Tigers’ head coach said. “They have got to come out there in a better frame of mind and execute better.”
Malzahn said he wants to see the team leaders make sure the practice is better on Tuesday and “redeem” themselves.
The practice followed a major scrimmage on Saturday and a day off on Monday for the start of fall semester classes.
With the Tigers deep into practice with more than two weeks left before the first game, Malzahn noted that his team is in the middle of preseason. “You have got to really reach deep down in and your leaders have got to really step up and answer the bell,” he said.
Malzahn said video from the scrimmage gave the coaching staff good information as they make decisions on which players will be ready to contribute for the Sept. 5th season opener vs. Louisville on offense, defense and special teams.
“I think we are in a good spot as far as personnel,”? the head coach said. “We will still use this week to finalize a few positions, but overall we got some good information evaluating our players.”
Other than mentioning the “young defensive backs” as pleasing defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the head coach wasn’t specific about which players or position groups he liked from the second major scrimmage of preseason. “Overall, it was a very good day,” he said.
Asked about his team’s health, he said that it is a good thing the Tigers have been able to get through physical practices with no major injuries. “There’s no doubt that’s a blessing,” he said. “This time of year that’s every head coach’s fear because you have to get work done. You’ve got to get your team prepared and we have been pretty fortunate so far. We’ve had some nicks and bruises, but nothing where somebody shouldn’t play. So far, knock on wood, that has been a good thing.”
On the offensive front, Malzahn said the battle continues for starting spots at guard and center. Alex Kozan and Devonte Danzey are competing at left guard while Austin Golson is trying to hold off a challenge from Xavier Dampeer at center.
Commenting on what he is looking for from the center position, Malzahn said,“It’s just the overall execution. Our center, like I’ve said before, is just as important as our quarterback in our system because he ID’s things. It really starts with him.
“The snap has to be a good snap to operate our timing passing game and our read-type runs. The good thing is that we’ve got two guys we feel good about. I’m really looking at it as a positive compared to other years. Xavier had a very good spring and has had a good fall camp. Both of those guys are very solid guys. That makes you feel very good going into the season.”
On the defensive front, asked about how his group is progressing, Rodney Garner said, “With the ones you feel decent about those guys. When you sit there and look at Lambert (Davonte Lambert), Adams (Montravius Adams) and Russell (Dontavius Russell), we feel really good about those guys, but we have got to develop depth, and quality depth.
“It is an athletic group, but it is still a work in progress with everybody,” the coach said. “I think Montravius, Dontavius and Pee Wee (Lambert) are having a really good camp--they are off to a really good start...but there is still a lot of room for improvement, even out of that group.”
Commenting on other players he is trying to get ready for the opener, the defensive line coach said, “We are encouraged by Swain (Maurice Swain), Lawrence (Devaroe Lawrence) and Cowart (Byron Cowart), of course.
“Andrew Williams has done some good things,” the coach said of the redshirt freshman who is getting work at tackle after previously working at end.
Andrew Williams is a player who has the potential to bolster the depth at multiple positions.
“President (Gimel President, a returning starter at end) is going to have to give us some depth there, but it is a process,” Garner said. “We just have to try to continue to improve daily.”
Cowart, a five-star recruit who is working at end, is a prospect who is expected to play early this season. “Byron has just got to continue to work and develop,” Garner said. “He is adjusting. He has a skill set. His challenge is to improve every day. There are so many areas he has got to improve in.
“My challenge to him is just try to get better every day,” Garner added. “Put aside all of the outside internal pressure and just work to get better--get away from the blogs and whatever people say.”
The other freshman defensive end, Prince Tega Wanogho, is expected to redshirt this year as he continues to recover from a broken bone in his leg that required surgery. Wanogho is continuing to do rehab and has not been cleared to practice.
The only other freshman defensive lineman, Jauntavius Johnson, is also coming back from an injury and is likely to redshirt, too. However, unlike Wanogho, Johnson is able to practice.
“Jauntavius is doing well and that knee he hurt in high school is getting better every day,” Garner said. “His confidence is getting better.”
In other news and notes:
*Commenting on junior defensive tackle Adams, who has dropped weight to 285 this season, Garner said that he is seeing signs of improvement. “He is starting to blossom into that guy you could always envision,” the coach said.
*Wide receiver Duke Williams, who left Saturday’s scrimmage early after tweaking his ankle, missed a Sunday workout, but was back at practice on Tuesday.
*A couple of potential starters, who have been less than full speed due to nagging injuries, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and safety Tray Matthews, should be ready to go for the opener. McKinzy practiced on Tuesday and Matthews, who has had a hamstring problem, is expected back at practice later this week and Malzahn said the transfer from Georgia should be “full speed.”
*Asked how senior cornerbacks Jonathan Jones and Josh Holsey are doing, guys who have had to battle injury problems during their time at Auburn, the coach said, “Both of those guys have had very solid fall camps. We know what we’re going to get with those guys and it gives coaches an opportunity to work those young guys in even a little bit more.”
Michael Sherwood from Riverdale, Ga., played high school football at Creekside High with Josh Holsey.
*Malzahn announced that Michael Sherwood and Aaron Garrison were put on scholarships for fall semester. Both are redshirt sophomores. Garrison is a defensive tackle and Sherwood is a cornerback who started in the A-Day Game.
Aaron Garrison is a redshirt sophomore from Ozark, Ala.
A player who has competed against Garrison in practice, Avery Young, noted he is glad to see the walk-on rewarded. “That is a great kid,” Young said. “He comes to practice with an edge on his shoulder every day. He always plays hard, practices hard, regardless of what they having him doing whether he is working for the O-line or practicing with the defense.”
Senior linebacker Justin Garrett noted he was happy that Sherwood is now on scholarship. “Dirty Mike, I am so proud of him. He works so hard. He comes out there to battle in practice every day. I was surprised, I think the whole team was surprised, because he is just a redshirt sophomore. That is one of the earliest I have seen player in this program get a scholarship since I?have been here.”
Michael Sherwood is shown in action during Auburn's spring game.
Garrett added that he believes Sherwood is “one of the best cornerbacks in the rotation” and noted, "I would give the shirt off my back for Dirty Mike--I just love him."
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