Wesley McGriff (above) is in his first season with coaching the football Tigers.
Auburn, Ala.--With Auburn's secondary under new management the coach in charge of the group said he has seen reasons for optimism with the Auburn Tigers in their second week of preseason drills.
Coach Wesley McGriff made the move earlier this year to coach the cornerbacks, safeties and the nickel position after working in 2015 for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. Nicknamed Coach Crimedog, McGriff is working with a group that includes 2015 Freshman All-SEC cornerback Carlton Davis and five other players with starting experience at AU--safeties Nick Ruffin, Stephen Roberts and Tray Matthews along with nickel backs Johnathan Ford and Josh Holsey.
“They are doing a great job in the classroom digesting our game plans and we are trying to put them in some hard spots right now so we can get them game-ready as much as we can,” McGriff said.
“One of the biggest things they are learning is just to go on to the next play,”?he noted. “Bad things are going to happen. You have to fight through some adversity--don’t hold on to the problem, go ahead and play the next play.
“They are keeping their frustration level down,” the coach noted. “I always tell them to go ahead and play the game and let the coach handle the frustration.
I?think on the field they are trying to play physical,” he added. “They are making some mistakes, but I think they are minimizing them by playing as one.”
Still in the camp portion of preseason, the Tigers practiced for more than two hours on Wednesday and many players stayed late to watch video of the practices or upcoming opponents.
“The biggest thing is those guys coming up and watching video on their own so it carries over to the field,” McGriff said. “You can see those guys are playing fast at a higher level. We are really pleased with what we have seen so far, but we have to get better.”
The Tigers practiced for more than two hours on Wednesday evening in hot and steamy conditions. Junior wide receiver Jason Smith, who scored a touchdown in the Tuesday scrimmage on a 50-yard run after catching a short pass, said he believes his team is pushing through.
“It is going good,” he said. “It is a mind thing, that heat. We have a lot of energy coming in from last year after winning the Memphis game. We are just carrying that over to the fall.”
Jason Smith is in his second season with the Tigers.
Smith said he agrees with Coach McGriff that the defense is doing good things this preseason. “A lot of people ain’t going to be scoring a lot on our defense, I?don’t think,” he predicted. “They are solid all-around.”
Smith, a quarterback in high school and junior college, was asked if he has an opinion on who the starting QB will be in the competition featuring Sean White, John Franklin and Jeremy Johnson, who continue to share reps in practice. “All of them are doing pretty good,”?he said. “I don’t know. The coaches have got a hard decision to make.
“They are getting it to us, they are throwing it where it is supposed to be,” Smith said. “We are making plays out there.”
In other news and notes:
*McGriff said it is too early to say any of his guys is a lock as a starter, but if there was one it would be Carlton Davis at cornerback. “Carlton is very conscientious, he has a good football IQ and he doesn’t make many scheme mistakes,” McGriff said. “He loves the game and is doing a great job of staying in compete mode.”
*Another sophomore cornerback, Jeremiah Dinson, is recovering from multiple injuries suffered in the Texas A&M game. Dinson is expected to redshirt this year, but has been able to do some workouts on his own.
“He has got a strong work ethic and he loves the game,” McGriff. “Right now we will progress him along. We have him in individual drills right now and he is going to continue to rehab. The better he gets in terms of his strength and flexibility then we will insert him in other portions of practice. He is doing a good job. He is a little bit ahead of schedule so I am looking forward to seeing him out on the grass full speed.”