Young Defenders Put on Show in Scrimmage

True freshmen Antoine Carter, Bo Harris and Michael McNeil earned the respect of their teammates during their first Auburn scrimmage.

Auburn, Ala.--With the exception of Kodi Burns getting outside and making plays in the open field, the Auburn defense had the upper hand for the most part of the first scrimmage of the preseason.

"Overall I think we did pretty well on defense," says middle linebacker Tray Blackmon. "It's always fun to get there, run around and make some contact. I think with our assignments and mental toughness we're a little bit ahead of where we were last year. We've got a long way to go so we're just going to continue to chop wood and get better."

Blackmon is bigger this year as he moves into the middle from weakside linebacker.

Even though defensive end Quentin Groves was held in check, he also thought it was a productive day overall on that side of the ball as the second and third team offensive lines had poor performances. Strongside linebacker Bo Harris and ends Antoine Carter and Antonio Coleman had productive days getting to backup QBs Neil Caudle and Steven Ensminger several times.

"Lorenzo Ferguson stood out to me, and Antoine Carter," Groves notes. "Ferguson jarred a couple of balls loose that would have been completed. He caught an interception that would have been a touchdown. Antoine's pass rushing ability impressed me with two sacks and a big hit on Ensminger that really made me say, ‘Wow.' I saw in his first day of pass rush that he was going to be a special guy if he continues to progress like the way he has."

The first team defense wasn't on the field much as the focus of the scrimmage was to get a look at how younger players could compete in a game-type situation. In addition to Harris, Blackmon notes that one of his backups, Josh Bynes, had a solid scrimmage.

"Bo and Josh Bynes--they reacted real well to be put in a situation like that," Blackmon explains. "I think they're definitely going to get better and have a chance to lead this defense. I think they went out and proved that they can get out there, stand a chance and fight. Overall I think the linebacker corps did pretty good on a assignments, running to the ball and giving 100 percent."

Redshirt freshman running back Mario Fannin had one of just a few scores for the offense. With Tristan Davis and Carl Stewart injured, Fannin, Brad Lester and Ben Tate had to spread carries and reps and got to work against some of the younger defenders.

"Michael McNeil did a lot and he was coming up real hard," Fannin says. "That was a surprise. Most freshmen are a little hesitant about it, but he came full speed. He got me one good time. I didn't see him coming."

Lester, even though he was limited to around five carries, got popped pretty good a couple of times--once by cornerback Jerraud Powers and another by Blackmon near the goal-line.

"He got me," Lester says of Blackmon. "I'll give him that one, but I'll get him back though. We go at it all the time.

"I don't think we did very good on offense today," Lester continues. "Our defense is real good. We're playing against one of the best defenses and it's just that we have a young offensive line and it's just them getting it all together."

"They did pretty good," Sen'Derrick Marks says of the offensive line, "but Coach (Hugh) Nall was doing a lot of hollering, so they probably didn't do as well as I thought they did. I think the defense did good overall. Antoine Carter is doing real good and we've seen a lot coming from him in his first year. Michael McNeil is doing pretty good. They're all learning faster than what I expected them to."

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