Jason Caldwell

Gus Malzahn Says His Coordinator Search Is "Going Well" As the Auburn Football Tigers Returned to Practice

Notes on the Auburn football team are featured as the Tigers returned to practice on Monday to begin preparations for the Birmingham Bowl.

Sean White (above) is a freshman quarterback for the Tigers, who has been a part-time starter this season.

Auburn, Ala.--After a 16-day break since Auburn  closed the regular football season with a loss to Alabama, the Tigers returned to the practice field on Monday evening and the head coach said he liked what he saw in addition to pointing out that there is nothing new to report on the defensive coordinator vacancy.

“As far as our defensive coordinator search, it is going well,” said Gus Malzahn said after practice. “I just want to make it clear, I have not officially offered the job to anyone. The timetable is still the same. Like I said, sooner rather than later, but I want to make sure we get the right person. But, like I said, it is going well.”

Asked for more detail about the situation, the coach replied, “Like I said, I have not officially offered the job to anyone. You think about the timetable, we just got off the road recruiting yesterday. We’ve been getting after that pretty good and so this is the first day that we’ve been off the road so no, I feel good about our timetable and feel good about getting the right guy.”

The Tigers are scheduled to practice every day this week before taking a break for Christmas. The players should get plenty of attention from the coaches, who are in a dead period for recruiting.

“It was great to be back on the practice field today with our guys,” Malzahn said. “Half the practice was devoted to our older guys, just to get their base fundamentals back. They really responded well, had some great energy.

“The other part of practice, which is probably the most important at this point, is developing the young guys,” he said. “We let those guys play some football. They were very excited. It was good for our coaches to see those guys and really it was good for our coaches to spend some quality time with those guys. That was good.”

Malzahn added, “Our goal is these first three practices just get better with what we do--the fundamentals offensively and defensively. We also spent some time in special teams working primarily with the younger guys. That’s a big advantage with these bowl practices for that development of your guys as far as fundamentals, development of your young guys and also evaluate your young guys because a lot of these guys have been on the scout team all year and they have been working on the offense and defense of other teams.

“You can watch them, but when they start doing your offense, your defense, your special teams, they’re actually competing for positions so it’s a really good thing as far as that goes.”

Malzahn noted that except for the players who are out for the season with injuries he expects everybody to be ready to play for the Dec. 30th Birmingham Bowl when the Tigers take on Memphis.

As the Tigers prepare for that contest after losing defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and secondary coach Travaris Robinson, as expected Malzahn said that Lance Thompson will coordinate the defense for the bowl game in addition to coaching the “buck” linebackers. Commenting on his decision to let Thompson make the defensive calls, Malzahn said, “He is familiar with our defense. He’s a veteran guy. These guys will work very closely together so that had a lot to do with it.”

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Lance Thompson is wrapping up his first season as an Auburn assistant coach.

Blake Gideon, one of Muschamp’s graduate assistant coaches who worked with the defensive backs all season, will be in charge of that group for the bowl game.

“He knows the secondary very well so I think he will do a very good job,” Malzahn said of Gideon. “He has done a real good job ‘GA-ing’ this year. He has a very good understanding of the back end. The kids are really responding to him and he is going to be a very good coach.”

Travis Williams, a defensive analyst for the Tigers, will coach the inside linebackers, an assignment he also handled for last year’s bowl game vs. Wisconsin after Ellis Johnson was fired. Williams has been on the road recruiting for the Tigers. Malzahn noted that Williams, a former All-SEC linebacker at AU, did a good job working with the linebackers last December and said he is confident that will be the case again this year.

Malzahn pointed out that the break was good for the players. “I’ll just say that you can tell their bodies are feeling better. They had some time off, which is always very good. They are looking forward to the bowl.

“The older guys had a very good practice,”?he added. “Of course, the young guys are always ready to go this time of year. Like I said, it was very good for our young coaches to see those young guys. We redshirted some guys that we think are going to be excellent football players. I think today it just really confirmed that in a lot of different areas.”

In other news and notes:

*With final exams done, Malzahn was asked if their were any academic issues with his team and he said that everyone should be ready for action in the bowl game.

Photo by Jason Caldwell

Braden Smith started 11 games at right guard this season and one at right tackle when Avery Young was injured.

*Sophomore kicker Daniel Carlson was named to the AP All-SEC First Team on Monday while sophomore offensive guard Braden Smith was a second selection.

*Malzahn didn’t say who would be the starter at quarterback now that Sean White is healthy enough to possibly retake that spot he lost to Jeremy Johnson due to a knee injury and a foot sprain.

“The next two days we are going to do something very similar to what we did today,”?Malzahn pointed out. “We will really start as far as our game planning probably Thursday really start getting into that really good. As it goes later in the week, we will have more information as far as that position and other positions.”

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