Roc Thomas (above) runs the football in Tuesday's practice.
Auburn, Ala.--After not practicing since March 10th due to the university spring holiday, Gus Malzahn said he was pleased with what he saw as the Auburn Tigers worked out for more that two hours in full pads on Tuesday evening.
“It was good to get back on the practice field with our guys after a pretty good break over spring break last week,” the Auburn’s football coach said.
“We did some tackling for the first time in spring, some live stuff,” he said. “I thought it was really good. From a coaches’ standpoint, you can learn so much about guys when you play real tackle football so that was good for us.
“Thursday we will have a shells practice, we will work a little red zone, a little more third down,” Malzahn said. “Saturday we will go to the stadium and have an extended scrimmage--really looking forward to that. I think we will learn a whole lot about our guys during that scrimmage.”
Tuesday’s practice was the sixth of the allotted 15 spring practice sessions. Asked if he saw signs of rust after the holiday, the coach said, “A little bit probably, probably midway through practice, but they were excited to practice coming out there and that is what you look for.
“Their attitude was good. It is to be expected any time you are off 11 or 12 days, there is going to be a little rust, but our guys’ energy was good and they were flying around.”
Malzahn, who said he is considering whether or not to make the quarterbacks live for tackling in Saturday’s scrimmage, was asked how the group performed after the layoff.
“I thought in the individual periods they were very crisp,” he said. “They came back and did a solid job. Once we started to go live it was a little bit more run-oriented. That was by design. Overall, I like where we are at. We will see how spring progresses. The scrimmages usually tell you a little bit more than a regular practice. All the guys are doing a solid job so far.”
One of the returning starters on offense, junior guard Braden Smith, worked at tackle in Tuesday’s practice, a position he started at for the Jacksonville State game last season.
Braden Smith is was a regular in the starting lineup last season.
Smith said that new offensive line coach Herb Hand is looking at players at different spots to try to find the best lineup possible. “I am working mainly right guard and I have worked a little at right tackle,” Smith said. “Basically, it’s just all about versatility so a person can play multiple positions.”
Asked about Hand, who replaced J.B. Grimes, Smith said, “The thing that stands out about him to me is that he has a lot of energy and he is definitely a technician if anything. He really emphasizes the little things. Every little bit that goes into each type of block--just working on the little things.
“Every day during meetings you can feel his energy,” Smith added. “It kind of just flows over to us, which is also a really good plus.”
Commenting on Tuesday’s practice, Smith said, “It is always great to get back out there and basically get back to the basics, developing yourself, working on all your skills. It is always great to start hitting people again.”
In other news and notes:
*Tickets are now on sale for the A-Day Game, which is scheduled for a 3 p.m. CDT kickoff on Saturday, April 9th. All of the seating is general admission and tickets are $5.
*A player who redshirted last fall, cornerback Jamel Dean, won praise from Malzahn after Tuesday’s practice. Originally an Ohio State signee as an early high school graduate, the Buckeyes decided that Dean couldn’t play due to a knee injury. However, Auburn checked into the situation and offered him a college home.
Dean performed well on the scout team and is pushing for playing time when he will be a redshirt freshman this fall under the direction of new secondary coach Wesley McGriff.
“He has a lot of talent,” Malzahn said. “He can run. He is a physical guy. He really caught our attention in bowl practice when we did some scrimmaging and he has carried it over into spring. Coach McGriff, I know is pleased with him right now. He is a young guy, he is still learning, but his attitude is good and he has got a lot of talent.”
*Class of 2016 four-star offensive line signee Brodarious Hamm from Spalding High in Griffin, Ga., is expected to be a late enrollee as was the case with former Tiger player Shon Coleman, who was diagnosed with cancer after signing with the Tigers.
Broadarious Hamm was considered one of the top prospects in the state of Georgia for the 2016 signee class.
“Hodgkin’s lymphoma is what he has,” Malzahn said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. He is a fine young man with a fine family. He is got a great attitude. Very unfortunate and like we have talked about before we have had experience with players -- Shon Coleman, Tashawn (Manning). We are going to be there for him. He is going to get through this. We expect him to be with us after a short period of time after he gets healthy.”
*The Tigers will practice two more times this week on Thursday and Saturday when they are expected to have their first scrimmage of the spring.
Defensive end Carl Lawson runs a drill at Tuesday's practice.