Even though it was the first practice of the spring, both the offense and the defense looked sharp in areas. There was a lot of enthusiasm on the practice fields with new coordinators Tony Franklin and Paul Rhoads. Franklin, of course, had nine practices with the offense prior to the bowl game. For Rhoads, it was his first as Auburn's new DC and he had positive comments about his players following. Some of the guys that caught his eye were Aairon Savage, Jerraud Powers, Craig Stevens, Tray Blackmon and Chris Evans.
As expected, there were a couple of position moves between the 2007 season and spring ball. Savage worked at corner, Sen'Derrick Marks moved from strongside end to tackle and Mike Slade worked at second team safety. Here's my observation of the defensive personnel:
SDE: Michael Goggans/A.J. Greene
DT: Sen'Derrick Marks/Mike Blanc
DT: Jake Ricks/Zach Clayton
WDE: Antonio Coleman/Antoine Carter
SLB: Craig Stevens/Courtney Harden
MLB: Tray Blackmon/Josh Bynes
WLB: Chris Evans/Merrill Johnson
LCB: Jerraud Powers/Ryan Williams
RCB: Walter McFadden/Aairon Savage
S: Zac Etheridge/Mike Slade
S: Mike McNeil/Jonathan Vickers
Ben Tate was absent from practice picking up an long-awaited high school award. He also has a tweaked leg, but should be back at practice soon. Brad Lester and Tristan Davis worked as the primary F backs and Davis looked better than expected catching the ball. He also looks even bigger than before.
Tyronne Green, the 2007 starting left guard, ran on the side. He's also got a leg problem. Sophomore Byron Isom stepped in at first time in his place. Here's what the offensive line looked like every time I noticed:
Ziemba and Pugh are flip-flopped from last season so Ziemba will be on the blind side, with all four quarterbacks being right handed. Redshirt freshman Jared Cooper caught my eye and passes the looks test as an SEC tackle.
With Franklin taking over, reps in practice increased dramatically for just about every position, especially the quarterbacks and receivers. Several of the pass drills they did, all four quarterbacks would throw to different receivers, increasing the reps in that aspect as well.
From the looks of it, all of the offensive skill players were in the positions noted in our position previews in the past week.
In some of the quarterback footwork drills, junior college transfer Chris Todd, who has a long history with Tony Franklin, looked like he had done the drills many times before. He showed in his first practice that he's got good accuracy and good touch on the ball. In some of the pass skeleton drills, he looked like he knew the playbook inside an out correcting his receivers on some of their routes.
The QBs pulled out the trashcans for one of the drills. What would be equivalent to a fade route, true freshman DuRon Furr was the only one to hit the bottom of the trashcan. Neil Caudle and Todd were close on several of their tosses. Furr looks huge for a freshman and for a quarterback. He's already got big shoulders and legs.
Kodi Burns, as expected, looked tremendously quick running and showed off some nice footwork in drills. However, he still needs to work a little on accuracy and throwing spirals.
A couple of Furr's old teammates from Carver-Columbus were in town for Junior Day, one being his brother LeRon Furr. The younger Furr is a linebacker for Carver and big Jarvis Jones, who will probably be one of the top recruits out of Georgia, is another physically impressive junior linebacker.
The Tigers worked on fundamentals early in practice with their position coaches and did some team work toward the end of practices. Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads was asked after practice if it would be a concern going against the spread every day in practice. He said yes, and that once the pads got on the offense would have to concede and run some two-back sets so his players could see that kind of look.
The first scrimmage of the spring will be on Saturday, March 1 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.